Detailed homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: THE THREE-DIMENSIONAL LOVE
By: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
R1 – Deut 6:2-6
R2 – Heb 7:23-28
GOSPEL – Mark 12:28-34
Moses Mendelson tells the story of a woman who came to a great teacher and asked him: “Teacher, how do I know which religion is the right one?” The teacher replied with a story of a great and wise King with three sons. This King had a precious gift–a magic ring that gave him great compassion, generosity, and a spirit of kindness. As he was dying, each of his sons went to him and asked the father for the ring after his death. And he promised to each of the sons that he would give him the ring. Now how could he possibly do that for all three sons? Here’s what he did. Before he died he called in the finest jewelry maker of the land and asked him to make two identical copies of the ring. After his death each of his sons was presented with a ring. Well, it wasn’t long before each of the sons figured out that his brothers also had a ring and therefore two of them had to be fakes. Only one of them could be the genuine article. And so they went before a judge and asked the judge to help them determine which was the authentic ring. Then they could determine who the proper heir was. The judge, however, could not distinguish among the three rings. And so he said: “We shall watch and see which son behaves in the most gracious, generous, and kind manner. Then we will know which possesses the original ring.” And from that day on, each son lived as if he was the one with the magic ring, and no one could tell which was the most gracious, generous, and kind. Then the teacher, having told this story, said to the woman, “If you wish to know which religion is true, watch and see which reveals God’s love for the world.
Beloved in Christ, the entire readings of this Sunday’s liturgy present us the most fundamental principle of all religions, especially Christianity viz: love of God and love of neighbor as we love ourselves. Hence, we are created:
(i) To love God
(ii) By loving others and to love others as an expression of our love for God
(iii)As we have loved ourselves.
So, these three dimensions of love expression, make up the Three-dimentional aspect of agape love. When any of them is lacking, the love becomes deficient. When we love God without loving our neighbors, it becomes false religion; when we love ourselves without without loving others, it becomes self-love and selfish enterprise; then, when we do not love ourselves, we lack no love, because, no one gives what he does not have (Nemo dat quod non habet).
The first reading captures Moses’ explanation of the Law to the Israelites after his return from Mount Sinai. He describes total obedience to the commandments as the greatest means of expressing our love to God our Father.
While in today’s Gospel, a Scribe asks Jesus to summarize the most important of the Mosaic Laws in one sentence. Jesus cites the first sentence of the Jewish Shema prayer we which every Jew repeats each day: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Dt 6:4). Then He adds its complementary law: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lv 19:18).
Therefore, Jesus defines true religion as, loving God and loving our fellow human beings at the same time. It is by showing genuine, active love for our neighbors as we love ourselves that we can demonstrate that we really love God.
So, every of our rituals and religious practices like attending Masses, attending Pious Society’s prayer meetings, Bible reading, Sacraments, acts of penance are meant to help us to acknowledge and appreciate the presence of God in our neighbors and to express our love for God by serving our neighbors with love, sharing our blessings with them.
So, only true love which expresses being gracious, kind and generous to others, helps to identify and differentiate us from other ring bearers as true heirs of the kingdom of love, as expressed in the introit story.
*THE THREE-DIMENSIONAL LOVE*
Someone once said, “The message of the Scripture from the first page to the very last is love.” For most scripture scholars, “Love is the main message of Christianity, others are just commentaries and footnotes. This is because all the other commandments are explanations on how to perfect the trito-dimentional love. The Ten Commandments are based on the principle of reverence for God and respect for others. Hence, the first three Commandments instruct us to reverence God, His Holy Name and His Holy Day, and the remaining Commandments ask us to respect our parents and to respect the life, honor, property, and good name of others.
Besides love, no other religious practices, teachings and rituals are pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. Hence, the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. It is the foundation, center and the summit of Christian life.
*THE SCRIBE’S QUESTION*
The scribe’s question, “Which is the first of all commandments?” indicates pluralities of opinions in Jesus time on the summary of the commandments. However, in Israel in Jesus’ time, the scholars of the Law could extract 613 commandments from Scriptures: 365 prohibitions – the number of days in a year and 248 positive precepts, the number of the bones in the human body (or so they thought), symbol of a person’s structure. It is not easy to classify the laws according to importance or to pinpoint the fundamental laws. The core of the law seems to be the Ten Commandments. Psalm 15 lists eleven laws as requisites for joining the cult in the Jerusalem temple. Isaiah indicates six fundamental laws (33:15), Micah, three (6:8) and Amos, two (5:4).
Jesus’ response to the question bordering on the first commandment lays the foundation for the three-dimentional love:
(i) You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength
(ii) You shall love your neighbor
(iii) As you love yourself,” (Mk 12:30-31).
However, it was very hard for the Jews of Jesus’ time because they considered that only a fellow-Jew, obeying the Mosaic Law, was to be considered their neighbor. That is why, immediately after defining this important commandment, Jesus tells them the parable of the Good Samaritan, as reported in Luke’s Gospel. He wanted to teach His listeners that everyone in need is their neighbor. Love for our neighbor is a matter of deeds, not feelings. It means sharing with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us. This is the love for neighbor that God commands in His law.
(1) *LOVE IS THE GREATEST*
Love conquers and subdues all things. That is why the scripture says, “As it is, these remain: faith, hope and love, the three of them; and the greatest of them is love.” If love is the greatest, all who aspire to become great must learn to love; not sectional love or loving as it pleases us, rather, loving as Jesus commands us: imbibing the three-dimensional love that cares more for others than ourselves.
(2) *BE RECONCILED WITH YOUR NEIGHBOR AS WELL AS WITH GOD*
We are asked to love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, vitality, and human intelligence. Since God is present in all others, any sin against another person becomes a sin against God. Hence, it is not sufficient to be reconciled with God by repentance. We have to obtain forgiveness from, and reconciliation with, the person we have hurt. “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 (I John 4: 20).
(3) *TOLERANCE AND THE SPIRIT OF LET-GO SUSTAIN LOVE*
There is a saying that, “In every successful relationship, there is always someoneone who carries the burden of the friendship.” He who holds the friendship does not lack the virtues of tolerance and let-go. The sustainability of the three-dimensional love is made feasible through tolerance and imbibing a spirit let-go over all hurts.
Finally, speaking on the formula of joy, Fr K Anthony observed, “In English, we speak in what is known as person, viz: First, Second and Third Persons. If I am referring to my self, I will say, “I am.” That is known as the “first person.” If I were speaking to you, I might say, “You are.” That is the “second person.” Then, it I were speaking of another, I might say, “He is.” That is known as the “third person.” In English, we always have self first. However, in Hebrew, it is just the opposite. First Person says, “He is”; Second Person says, “You are”; Third Person says, “I am.” Therein is contained the formula for joy in this life. If we will learn to place God in the first person, others in the second person and if we will be willing to take the third person, then we will have our lives in order. The true formula for joy is: J – Jesus, O – Others, Y – Yourself (JOY).
MAY THE SPIRIT OF GENUINE LOVE FOR GOD AND NEIGHBOR NEVER DEPART FROM US. MAY OUR ULTIMATE JOY STEM FROM PLACING GOD AND OTHERS BEFORE OURSELVES.
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
*HAPPY SUNDAY* !
*FR GERALD MUOKA*