Reading 1 EX 22:20-26
Responsorial Psalm PS 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
Reading 2 1 THES 1:5C-10
Alleluia JN 14:23
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord,
and my Father will love him and we will come to him.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 22:34-40
Homily— October 28 & 29, 2017
This has not been the week that I had planned. Last Sunday I planned to begin a retreat at American Martyrs Retreat House in Cedar Falls with about 30 priests. The theme was “As the Master goes so goes the disciple based on the Gospel of Mark. Then I started getting phone calls about funerals and realized it was better for me to stay home and celebrate the four funerals. This will be my sixth special homily this week after four funerals and a wedding.
Keeping laws would probably not be readily named as one of our favorite activities. We tend to think of laws as restrictive and we keep them because we know they are necessary for good order in home, neighborhood, workplace, society at large. If we think it is safe and not hurting anyone, we might set aside keeping a law for some immediate benefit. For example if we are driving and everyone is driving faster than us we might speed a little so as to travel with the traffic. Even some religious laws can be set aside for good reason. For example, if one is sick with the flu it makes far better sense to stay home from Mass one Sunday rather than go to church and risk infecting others. Some laws should never be set aside such as laws that protect life.
This Sunday Jesus teaches us the great commandment to love God above all but Jesus adds that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love of God and love of neighbor are one law; they cannot really be separated. In loving our neighbor we love God. We cannot separate love of God and love of neighbor because our neighbor is created in God’s image and bears within him or her the Presence of God. Our love for God must be carried out by loving actions toward our neighbors.
The first reading challenged the Jews about their treatment of other people and it challenges us. Who are the poor among us today—certainly many are people who come from other countries to escape the violence and starvation and threat of death and/or of physical and sexual abuse.
Pope Francis’ addressed this on August 5, 2013 commemorating the World Day of Migrants and Refugees:
‘Not infrequently, the arrival of migrants, displaced persons, asylum-seekers and refugees gives rise to suspicion and hostility. There is a fear that society will become less secure, that identity and culture will be lost, that competition for jobs will become stiffer and even that criminal activity will increase…
A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization—all typical of a throwaway culture—towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world…
Every human being is a child of God! He or she bears the image of Christ! We ourselves need to see, and then to enable others to see, that migrants and refugees do not only represent a problem to be solved, but are brothers and sisters to be welcomed, respected and loved. They are an occasion that Providence gives us to help build a more just society,. . .a more fraternal world, and a more open and evangelical Christian community.
Migration can offer possibilities for a new evangelization, open vistas for the growth of a new humanity foreshadowed in the paschal mystery: a humanity for which every foreign country is a homeland, and every homeland is a foreign country.”
I was blessed to have been born in the United States of America and I am blessed to be a citizen. But with every funeral I celebrate I realize that I want to be a citizen of heaven and that is going to depend on how well I love God and how well I love my neighbor. Every person is created in God’s image. God help me to love all people especially those I find most difficult to love.