30th Sunday A      –       The Greatest Commandment

‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind’ – Matt 22, 34ff.  The crowd listening to Jesus would have been nodding in agreement. The commandment of love is the greatest. It is not the easiest, especially the second part of it which resembles it: ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’ Loving the other person as ourselves can be an uphill climb, wrote the late Michael Paul Gallagher (1).  The call to love the Lord our God is a call to put our whole selves into loving our neighbour, and loving them as ourselves. Loving God and loving our neighbour are not two unconnected actions. We can’t have one without the other.

There’s an element of selfishness about us even in our noblest moments. It’s difficult for us to love someone without an eye to wondering ‘what’s in it for me.’ I can’t imagine Jesus living like that. He was all about other people, his Father’s business, one hundred percent. The image of him having nowhere to lay his head is an image of selflessness.  The gospels present Jesus to us as a model for imitation and living, as someone whose outlook on life we are invited to grow into gradually.

We can accept that our neighbour is as worthy of love as ourselves, but somehow we seem to balk at putting it to the test. Do we love people who constantly upset us or even harm us? Do we readily turn the other cheek or bless those who curse us? Do we genuinely forgive those who caused the death or dismemberment of a family member? Was Freud right when he declared that it’s impossible to love our neighbour as ourselves? (2). Can we profess to be Christians when we don’t measure up to the litmus-test of loving and forgiving those neighbours who are our enemies?

Following Christ is a life-long journey. It can take a long time for our hearts, souls and minds t0 evolve completely into alignment with the greatest commandment. In continuing to struggle, despite our failures, to live up to the gold standard set by Jesus we acknowledge that the people we struggle with in life and don’t like very much are worthy of our love. God’s help is always there to give us a leg up when we stumble. Along the camino pilgrimage of life we might have glimpses in these very people something of the face of God. Dwell with these glimpses; they will soften our hearts.

 

Fr. QQ – 10/25/2020

(1) M.P.Gallagher sj, INTO EXTRA TIME, 77

(2) Sigmund Freud, CIVILIZATION AND ITS DISCONTENTS, 142

 

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