Fr. Mike’s homily for Thursday of the 20th week in Ordinary Time Cycle I (1)

Fr. Mike’s homily for Thursday of the 20th week in Ordinary Time Cycle I

Theme: LOVE God, love your neighbour

By: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

Homily for Thursday August 20 2021

Mt 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

The first five books of the Bible, called ‘Torah’ or The Law contain the Decalogue and all commandments and regulations given through Moses. There are 613 precepts in all, too many even to just memorize them. Hence, the question of a scholar of the law: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” His question, though, is not without malice, for he wants to test Jesus, hoping to catch Him say something that can be used against Him.

The response of Jesus comes from the words of the Torah itself. The first part is from Deuteronomy 6:5, and the second part is from Leviticus 19:8. Hence, there is nothing new. What is new, however, is by presenting the two laws as only one. There is only one commandment: love. But, like a coin, it has two sides: love of God and love and neighbor. And they are complementary and inseparable. Hence, it is not possible to practice one and disregard the other.

These two laws, fused into one, have the word ‘love’. It is the translation of the original Greek word, the verb ‘agapeo’ (’, from which comes the noun ‘agape’ (’, instead of the verb ‘phileo’ (. Both agape and philia are translated as ‘love’. But they are totally different. Agape can be described as an intense desire for the good or the well-being of the other. On the other hand, philia is about friendship and affection. By using the word ‘agape’, the Lord is, therefore, telling us not just to love those who are lovable and attractive, but to really desire and work for the good of the other person, even to the point of self-sacrifice. This is perfectly shown by Jesus on the cross. It is this kind of love that makes it possible for one to love even his enemies.

Although considered as only one commandment, the ‘first and the greatest’ of the two is love of God: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” God is the source of everything in this world and in our life. Hence, everything belongs to Him. Thus, He has the right to demand everything from us. We cannot love Him with only half of our mind, and a quarter of our strength. We have to love Him with ALL that we are and have.

And the second is love of neighbor. We are not to love our neighbor simply because of any endearing quality, or because of their poverty or any need. We love our neighbor for God’s sake. We are not just philanthropists and social workers who help others only for their sake. We are Christians: we love our neighbors for the sake of God. We love them because we love God. We see God in them: “I was hungry, and you gave me food, thirsty and you gave me drink…Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25).

The sole motivation in loving our neighbor is our love of God. This is illustrated in the life of St. Teresa of Kolkata. When someone under her care was dying, she would hold his face in her hands and tell him: ‘When you see Jesus, tell him I love you. Tell him that we prayed with you.’
We can always claim that we love God. But this has to be substantiated or proven by our love of neighbor. The Apostle James categorically declares: “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.”

The cross perfectly symbolizes of the life every Christian. The vertical beam signifies our love of God. The horizontal is love of neighbor. The cross is complete when the horizontal beam is attached to the vertical. Between the two, it is the vertical that must come first. Otherwise, the horizontal beam will just be a useless timber on the ground. Similarly, Christian life is complete when we love God and love our neighbor as ourself.

Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches

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