24-26 October 2014
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič
Jesus was constantly put to the test and questioned by the Jewish leaders of his time on various civil and religious matters. In today’s Gospel one of the scholars of the law puts forth a question to Jesus on a typically religious issue by asking him Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest? Having tested Jesus earlier on civil duties, now they wanted to find an excuse to trap him on religious grounds.
Jesus responds by clearly saying what they already knew and he repeats three times his appeal to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Jesus reminds them of the necessity for totality in love. This is why he states three times the word all and applies it to the innermost parts of our being: heart, soul and mind. Nothing less than a totality, completeness or fullness in love is required in our love towards God. This may seem impossible for us human beings to achieve, because who other than God can love in a total or perfect fashion? Yet the goal is set before us and we are to do our very best to strive towards it.
Loving God with all one’s heart does not mean only loving him and forgetting everyone else in the world, but instead it means loving the Lord our God without mediocrity, without half measures. Positively speaking, this means making a full time and complete effort in respecting God for who he is, by accepting his love towards us and allowing ourselves to become purified by it, renewed and made whole, in order to spread his love towards humanity.
Loving our neighbour. Jesus does not stop with love towards God. He goes even further. The second (commandment) is like it: Your shall love your neighbour as yourself. To love one’s neighbour is similar to loving God. Our neighbour is therefore like God to us. This may seem surprising if not even scandalous to us, that God can be likened to mere human beings, yet this is the great innovative power of the Gospel message. We are all called to love God with all our heart, however there still remains room in our hearts for couples to love each other, for parents to love their children, for all of us to love our friends, and to even love those who do not accept our love. It is interesting to note that Jesus unites the love we owe to God to that which we offer to one another. God will never be jealous if we love our neighbour, for the Lord does not steal our hearts away from us, he makes them even bigger, capable of loving, giving, sharing, comforting, helping and forgiving.
Loving ourselves. The scholar of the law asked for a commandment from Jesus and the Lord replied with a challenge that involves three objects of our love: love the Lord your God, love your neighbour, as you would love yourself. This third aspect of the commandment is often neglected. We will never be capable of loving God or others unless we first accept ourselves, with all our limitations and weaknesses. For if we do not love ourselves, we will not be able to love our neighbour who is also weak and sinful just like us, and for whom the Lord gave up his life, out of love for us all.
The opposite of love is not only hatred, which can be understood as a distorted form of love, but rather indifference. Parents may truly hate certain behaviours in their children, but this is because they love them and want them to mature, improve and change for the better. Indifference is truly terrible for it reduces a person to nothing, whereby we no longer care for the other, which truly poisons our relationships and brings about death and destruction amongst us.
The invitation of Christ is to love and not to be indifferent! We cannot fool ourselves by thinking it is enough to love God and avoid our responsibilities towards our brothers and sisters in need. One cannot love God and despise one’s neighbour, because that neighbour is a brother or sister, who is a living being, with a heart and mind, created in the image of God. Neither can we deceive ourselves by thinking that it is enough to love our neighbour and avoid our duties to God, by saying ‘I’m helping the poor, I’m working towards peace and justice in the world, I give at the office and this is my way of worshiping God’. God is present in our neighbour and can be found in him/her, but he is also the Alpha and Omega, the eternity of our lives that we hunger for, the only One capable of transforming our hearts who comes to us from above in order to change us and the world we live in.
Let us not separate these two fundamental commandments of the Lord, for they form the cross of our lives, uniting heaven to earth and reaching out from East to West, which we take upon ourselves willingly, that also means dying to our selfishness so that we can become great men and women resurrected to new life that knows no end.