Throughout my many years as a priest, I have often stressed the two greatest commandments in my homilies and writings: first, love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind; second, love your neighbor as yourself. Recently, a thought crossed my mind: maybe there are three greatest
The first commandment has been very clear all through the Old and the New Testament. We have to love the God who made us and sustains us. Jesus attached the second to the first and emphasized that ALL are our neighbors through the parable of the Good Samaritan, his answer to the question, “And who is my neighbor?”
But hidden in there is “myself.” I need to love “myself.” Maybe that’s the third of the greatest commandments? Because, if I don’t love myself, will I be capable of loving others? And if I can’t love others, will I love God?
By loving myself, I don’t mean being self-centered, but rather realizing my value because I am a child of God, made in His image. God chose to create ME, as I am, with all my strengths and weaknesses. God doesn’t expect me to be perfect in order to love me: He loves me as I am and invites me to grow in my ability to be loving.
I AM SPECIAL because God made me and loves me. That doesn’t make me proud or obnoxious, because I realize I didn’t do anything to deserve it: it was God who did it all. But, hopefully, experiencing that love and letting it sink in will help me to be loving and forgiving to others, who also are loved by God, even though they are flawed like I am.
I invite us to reflect this week on how special we are because God made us and loves us, allowing that to help us be more accepting and loving to others, who were also created by God and are loved by God.
Church sign of the week: If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it.
We can be funny creatures: we complain about potholes, slow mail service, etc., but we don’t like to pay the taxes that provide for all these services. Some people complain about the politicians running the country or the state or the city, but they never vote. Our Gospel today, in which Jesus answers the question about paying taxes to Caesar, tells us we have to be involved both in worldly concerns and
spiritual concerns: we need to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.
One way of looking at this is that we need the help and support of community both in worldly matters and spiritual matters. When we have a strong civic community, a community that works together for the common good and not individual interests, we have a well-oiled, functioning society: safety, good roads, mail service, hospital care, snow removal, etc. We cannot survive without the support of each other in our various tasks and positions.
The same is true in the spiritual life: it is difficult to live Gospel values, to forgive 77 times, to initiate a process of reconciliation when we are the aggrieved party, to be pleased that someone who worked only one hour has what is needed to feed the family – all the challenges we have been hearing in our Gospels during Ordinary time. Our parish community comes together to hear the word of God and receive the Eucharist, so that these things can strengthen us AS A COMMUNITY to be supportive of each other, as we give to Caesar what he deserves (our contribution to the welfare of all) and to God what he deserves.
One final comment: everything we do, including our civic duty, needs to be influenced by the Gospel value of love: love of God shown through love of neighbor. If not, no one will benefit, including ourselves. I invite us to reflect this week on the importance of
community in both our civic and spiritual lives. God bless.
Church sign of the week: What you have, give; what you lack, seek.
Whom does God love? The answer is absolutely everybody! Our long, complicated Gospel tells us that God invites EVERYONE to his heavenly banquet. It doesn’t matter where they live, what color they are, or anything else: all are invited.
In the scriptures, sharing food is a sign of close identity and acceptance. The epitome of sharing food is a banquet, which is sharing food at a special occasion, such as a wedding. God wants everyone to be happy with him forever: he wants us at his
heavenly banquet. That is why it is unacceptable to be prejudiced against anyone: we are all God’s children.
God wants us. He invites us. But we, for our part, have to wear the wedding garment to get in. Our Gospel sounds harsh, having the man who was invited in off the street, with no warning, thrown out because he wasn’t wearing proper attire. But Jesus’ audience would have known that garments were handed out at the door, if needed. The man had a garment: he chose not to wear it.
So, what do we have to do? What is the wedding garment that God asks us to wear, in order to enter his heavenly banquet? The answer is simply how we treat others: love one another as I love you. Over and over in the Gospel, Jesus models for us love of his Father, shown in His love for others. Even those who crucified him! At the last judgment, we will be wearing the wedding garment if we can claim that we did what Jesus was saying: when I was hungry, you gave me to eat, when I was thirsty, you gave me to drink… He will then be able to say to us, “now enter in to the home of my heavenly Father.” In other words, welcome to the heavenly banquet.
I invite us this week to reflect on how well we are living the law of love. That is our wedding garment!
Church sign of the week: God expects spiritual fruit, not religious nuts.
The beginning of our reading this weekend from Paul’s letter to the Philippians has a wonderful message for us: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
The key is in the second part of this reading: Then the peace of God… It is not for God that we pray: he doesn’t need our help to know what to do. We pray because it is important for us:
First, praying helps to make God more present in our lives. It is a way of connecting, it is building and strengthening a relationship. Second, prayer of petition is admitting that we are NOT in control, that we don’t have to be able to control everything, that we will never be in control. As a result of God being present to us and our acceptance of not having control, we will be less anxious. “The peace of God… will guard our minds and hearts,” as Paul tells us.
Anxiety can cripple us, making us unable to act and very unhappy. God’s presence can calm us and bring us peace. It will not take away our problems, but it will remind us that someone who loves us very much and has our welfare in mind IS in control.
But it is not magic, we have to allow it to happen. We need to pray and by “pray” I mean taking quiet time to be with the Lord, sharing our concerns and then being quiet, allowing him to speak to us, to calm us. I repeat the wonderful wisdom we heard from St. Paul, inviting you to meditate on it this week. Are you spending enough time talking with the Lord?
Brothers and sisters: Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. God bless.
Church sign of the week: Cast your cares upon the Lord. He has broad shoulders.