Homily for Friday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: Your love of God is proved by your love of neighbour.
By: Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf
Homily for Friday August 23 2019
READINGS: Ruth 1: 1.3-6.14-16.22, Ps. 146, Matthew 22: 34-40
God created the world out of love and sustains it in love. It was love that made God send his Son to come and reconcile the world to himself and made him suffer for the sins that are not his but the world’s. This is why the Evangelist John said: For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him might not die but have eternal life. The same Evangelist who is the apostle of Love said: God is love and whoever lives in love lives in God. History has it that when this apostle was very old and unable to stand and preach, he would come in and say to the people: Love, love and love. The old saying of the Jews is called the Shemah which is recommended to be recited always and thought to descendants. It is all about love of God with all your faculties and the neighbour in same manner. The people of Jesus’ time knew of this spiritual recommendation and surely were reciting it. These may be among those that Jesus spoke about: These people worship me with their lips but their hearts are far from me, in vain is their worship. These Sadducees and the Pharisees pretended not to know this and came to ask Jesus through the one they thought was knowledgeable- the lawyer: Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law? I think this is so shameful a question coming from the person seen as a learned gentleman who should have a better interpretation of the Law. At times we allow arrogance and incredulity to befool us and make us look ridiculous and used by others to achieve their selfish desires. At times we plan to shame others by the public question we put forward only to realise that we have played the fool. Is it true that the lawyer is ignorant of the question he asked?
Beloved in Christ, we must allow the teachings and knowledge we have to play out in our daily lives. Life must be practical and not by lips, it must be real and true not pretentious. It is the life we live that defines us and names us. It is not the ceremony of Baptism that gives us the name Christian but the living out of the basic tenets and principles of it. Our religion is built on love and has love as its foundation. The love of God has been poured into our hearts (by the Spirit) by our inclusion into his household and membership of the Church. The Evangelist made it clear that we cannot say we love God who we cannot see when we cannot love the person around us (that we see) that we would be lying. This is really true. Jesus challenges us today in his response to the evil-motivated question to go back and show love to our neighbours and that would impress him and make him feel loved. He tells us that he is in the neighbour with you and so, you should give him or her, whatever you wished to give Him. From them, he would receive your gift of love and bless you.
Beloved, Ruth is our teacher of real practical love of God today. Ruth from the first reading challenges us to live like her, think like her and talk like her. She was not an evangelist or a preacher and writer of the word of God but a convinced practical witness and believer. This is the simple spirituality required of us. We often think and behave like Oprah not like Ruth. We think of ourselves alone and not about the other. We are insensitive to the plight of the other. We are not caring and refuse to see the deep feeling of frustration and worries of the other. Oprah wanted her own comfort and resettlement and healing but not that of Naomi. She did not pass the test of love of neighbour or of God. Ruth wanted her mother in-law who is more grieved to be comforted by her own grief and comforted by her personal presence. This is sacrificial and that is all that love of God entails. Can you say to your neighbour: I will not leave you; for where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people and your God my God?
We pray that God may instil in us the grace to love truly and tenderly, the grace to be considerate and sensitive to the plight of others around us and the strength to sacrifice for the comfort and inner peace and healing of others around us, Amen.
Rev. Fr. Callistus Emenyonu, cmf