25th October, 2020

Abandoned railway track, overgrown, surrounded by a forest

Homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Very often, when we make the most important decisions in our life, we first look for criteria that help us take the right steps. For some people, this criterion is freedom or independence, for others self-satisfaction or security. In today’s Gospel Jesus draws our attention to the fact that the highest criterion for making decisions by his disciples should be love for God and other people.

I think Jesus wants to tell us very clearly that we cannot be His followers if we neglect even one of these two things. As we heard, Jesus gives us no choice in this matter. He didn’t say to us: If you wish… or if you don’t mind… No! He said very firmly: You must! “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. You must love your neighbour as yourself”. These two commandments are closely connected with each other, just like the two rails of the same railway track. In order for the train to travel safely, both rails must go in the same direction, and both have to turn in the same direction. Otherwise, the train will derail quickly and it will crash. It is very similar in our lives, as a follower of Jesus, we can never speak of one commandment of love whilst neglecting the other.

The Gospel says that God must be loved with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. What does it mean? This means that none of us can say, “I love God, but only when I’m in the church or only when I have time for him.”

When I say, “I love God with all my heart,” it means that there is no room for any other god in my heart. I cannot let my mobile, my money, computer, girlfriend, boyfriend or anyone else become my god. When I say “I love God with all my heart” it means that only He can be my Lord and no one else. When I say “I love God with all my heart” it means that in a few days I will be celebrating All Saints’ Day, not Halloween which has nothing to do with our Catholic faith. When I say “I love God with all my heart” it means that His image or Cross – that is, the greatest symbol of His love for me – is in the most important place of honor in my home, not any other image of idol or favorite actor or singer.

Explaining the second commandment of love, Jesus said: “You must love others as yourself.” Thinking of love for our neighbour, I would like to recall one event that took place in Panama two years ago – World Youth Day. I remember watching the broadcast of this event with some of my friends. One of the most interesting moments of this meeting of young people was Mass with the Holy Father and then sharing of the testimony of faith. Young people from different countries spoke in different languages ​​about their faith and relationship with God.

Among those crowds of people there was one family that was sharing with all these young people how they understood the commandment of love. A few years ago, the mother of this family – at the age of 42 – became pregnant for the fifth time. Since her previous baby was born with Downs Syndrome – and this time there were other serious health complications as well – the doctor suggested abortion. Since both spouses were brought up in the Catholic faith, they did not even want to hear about such a solution. In the face of a thousand young people, this woman said: “Together with my husband, we said to God: Yes! because this is how we understood the greatest commandment of love – You must love your neighbour as yourself.” As she spoke these words, her husband was standing beside her, holding their five-year-old daughter in his arms. For me it was the most touching moment of those days.

When we hear the first commandment of love, we probably think of our relationship to God, which we express in our daily prayer, in our sacramental life, in our participation in Sunday Mass. When we hear the second commandment of love, we think about our family members, our friends and neighbors, but also about all these difficult people we want nothing to do with. But today we can also think of those who are far away and who suffer from hunger, poverty and diseases in so many countries in Africa and in other countries around the world. We can think of Father Jo and the thousands of refugees he looks after in Uganda. We can think of so many unborn babies whose lives are threatened by the danger of abortion. You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. You must love your neighbour as yourself.

Let us ask ourselves: What can I do to love more? What can I do to make the two commandments of love the priority of my life, so that they become the most important criterion for all my choices and decisions?

Fr Gregory