To share our love with one another
Father Dan Juelfs
Homily from the Televised Mass, NewsCenter1
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 29, 2023
Which commandment of the law is the greatest?
Again, as we heard in last Sunday’s Gospel, the Jewish leadership is making another attempt to somehow catch Jesus saying something that they can condemn him for. Saying something that is going to get him in trouble either with the Jewish people, or the government, or whoever. Again, Jesus shows his knowledge of the law and his awareness that this is what they’re trying to do. It’s not an honest question. They’re not really trying to find out what’s most important as much as trying to find a way to catch Jesus saying something he shouldn’t. I mean it could be a legitimate question, but in this case, it wasn’t, and Jesus knows it.
And he simply answers by giving them two statements. Statements that are very much a part of the Jewish law, had been for a few hundred years at that point, one from Deuteronomy and one from Leviticus — loving the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and loving your neighbor as yourself. Very, very much a part of what the Jewish people were aware of but he put them together in this context differently than what they appeared in the Jewish law as such.
But he also said these commandments are alike. These are very similar, and you can’t separate them. You can’t say, “I’m going to love God, but ignore my neighbor,” or “I’m going to love my neighbor but not pay any attention to God.” Jesus said, no those two have to be together. We can’t choose one and ignore the other or choose a different one and ignore the other one. We can’t say we love God and then ignore those people that God has created. The recognition that God has created us all in his image and ignoring our neighbor is in effect ignoring God, or ignoring a present image of God, someone or some person in our life that should reflect the goodness of God. Granted some days we do a better job than others, but the reality is we are created in God’s image and Jesus reinforces that when he says loving God, loving the neighbor are similar. They can’t be separated.They can’t be taken apart.
So, what does it mean? What is love? What’s he saying? What’s he trying to accomplish in doing this? And one definition of love is a constant attention to the other. A constant awareness. Seeking the good of the other, whatever the other happens to be in a given situation. That’s what love is — looking beyond ourselves, getting outside of ourselves and recognizing the reality of something outside of us be it God or be it our neighbor but that’s what we’re about. And we’re called to reflect the love that God has shared with us. The fact that God has loved us first always has to be in the back of our mind. That always that recognition that what we’re doing is reflecting what God has done for us. Yes, we have to be conscious of it. We need to be aware of it. We need to sometimes sit back and remind ourselves of all of the things that God has done for us, but our love for one another is really an extension of, an expansion of the love that God has shared with us. And that’s what God calls us to do. We’re called to love our neighbor as we want our neighbor to love us, because they too reflect God’s love to us as much as we are called to reflect God’s love to them.
In very many ways it’s similar to Jesus’ response last week. Last week it was the Sadducees who asked him was lawful to pay the temple tax or the census tax or not. And Jesus simply responds, show good to Caesar what Caesar deserves and show goodness to God what God deserves and recognizing that the reality that God deserves it all because God is the one who put everyone, including the civil, including Caesar in this case, into authority.
Jesus simply reminds us that that’s our task – to get out of ourselves, to share our love with one another, and realizing that all of it is a reflection of what God has done to us. It’s always reminding ourselves that we, and all of the people around us, are all created in God’s image, sharing his love and are called to express that love to one another, with one another and allow that love to continue to grow, to be changed, to be strengthened by our use.
God commands us to say, go beyond ourselves, not to be limited in one way or another. And to see that loving God and loving our neighbor ultimately are the same thing because our neighbor is that reflection and God’s presence in our lives.