Catholic homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: ONE WHO LOVES GOD MOST LOVES OTHERS BEST
By: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
Homily for Sunday October 31 2021
1. Remote Control. It was time for offertory collection in church and Mrs. Smart was fumbling in her purse for her offering when a large television remote fell out and clattered onto the floor. The curious usher bent over to retrieve it for her and whispered, “Madam, do you always carry your TV remote to church?” “No,” she replied, “but my husband refused to come with me this morning, and I figured this was the most troubling thing I could do to him legally.” Mrs Smart’s action is a small concrete situation of a woman who loves her husband best because she loves God most.
2. Loving God Most and Loving Others Best. A certain John Bloom wrote an article titled: “If We Love God Most, We Will Love Others Best”. I have made this title personal: If I love God Most, then I love others Best. This is another way of presenting the two most important commandments: love of God and love of neighbor. In today’s Gospel reading (Mk 12:28b-34), our Lord states these two most important commandments in answer to a question put forward by a Scribe: Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” How come the Scribe asked about the first commandment or the most important commandment but our Lord gave two? Let us look at Matthew’s account of the same encounter (Matthew 22:35-40): And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Thus, in both accounts of this encounter, our Lord stated more than what was asked. He was asked for the greatest. He quickly stated the two greatest commandments. Interestingly, our Lord gave the reason for giving both at the same time: And the second is like it.
According to our Lord Jesus Christ, love of neighbor is like love God. If we love God with all our heart, we will love our neighbor as ourselves. If we love God most, we will love others best. His disciples understood this teaching, for John later wrote (1 Jn 4:20-21): If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) makes this Scriptural teaching explicit by defining charity as “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (CCC, 1822) Thus, we manifest our love for God in love of neighbor.
3. Who is my Neighbor? Dear Brothers and sisters, a practical guide to keeping this commandment is to constantly remind ourselves who our neighbors are, so that we may manifest our love for God in them. As demonstrated by our Lord in the parable of the Good Samaritan, our neighbor is every person we encounter, in real time, or remotely; physically or virtually; via actual presence or social media. Our neighbor is every soul who is wounded and bruised by the injustice of others just like the man who fell among the robbers. Victims of child abuse, domestic abuse, sexual abuse, etc, are all our neighbors. Our neighbor is everyone who is a victim of the happenstances of life: the sick, the poor, the lonely. Sometimes the help our neighbor needs is fraternal correction, eg: Mrs Smart trying to help her husband Mr Smart to keep Sunday holy. Priests, Bishops, Pastors, professional colleagues, friends, relatives, correcting each other’s sins of omission and commission, citizens casting votes in ways that promote ultimate values such as the right to life, the nature of marriage as revealed by God, and so on. Those who love God most, are those best disposed to loving others best not only by the good example of their lives but also by fraternal correction when necessary. Thank you Mrs Smart for showing your husband a bit of tough love, out of your love for God.