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The Nature of a Commandment

The 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The greatest and the first commandment is “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

What does it look like to fulfill that commandment? I think for many of us the image that comes to mind is the story of some of the great saints, especially the martyrs who literally gave their life because of the faith and their love of Christ. Or maybe a heroic figure from our own time. I often think of a priest who died unexpectedly a few years ago; he was one of the legends of the diocese, absolutely irreplaceable. At his funeral there were over a thousand people, and at the end of mass as his casket was carried out of the church everyone broke into applause we were so grateful and so proud of his life. And I remember thinking to myself, “this man knew how to be a priest.” Or maybe it’s someone only known to us, like the little old grandmother who comes to mass every day and is always giving you rosaries and saying that she prayed for you.

There are many people to inspire us in faith, but the problem is that when we look at this great commandment and wonder what it means to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… the problem is that we should think of ourselves. The scribe asked what the single most important commandment is and this is what Christ replies with. It isn’t the ideal that is reserved to the best of us, it’s not even something that we can hope to achieve someday in our future as we grow old. It is a commandment. It is how we ought to live now, how we should live each moment of each day.

So how do we fulfill that great commandment? I think it begins by never being content, by never ceasing to strive to conquer that last bit of sin in our lives. I think it is sustained by our prayer, both the personal prayer that we bring to our Lord as we offer all the emotions of our heart and our life, as well as the communal prayer that we take part in here as the People of God. But most of all, I think it is lived by the second commandment, by the love and care of both stranger and dear friend such that we no longer live for ourselves.

Love your neighbor as yourself. What does it mean to do that? Look at the first reading. The immigrant, the widow, the orphan, the poor… the people who are most in need of help… those are the people that we are supposed to love and the people who God will hear if they cry out in need because we failed. In each of our lives we must train ourselves to seek those people out and to offer our time, our energy, and our resources for their sake. Step back right now and think just in the circle of your family and friends if there is any person that is having a hard time. The elderly parent, the struggling young person, the lonely aunt or uncle… if someone just snapped into your mind then guess what? That is your person in need. That person is how you can live out the great commandments today when you walk out of here.

Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. These are not the perfect ideals, these are the basic commandments. You and I must live this here and now.

[Apologies that my homilies have had some hiccups getting mailed out to everyone lately. The database has been crashing daily and I haven’t figured out what is causing it.]

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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.

Published inHomilies