Thursday, October 27, 2011

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time October 23, 2011

I am in the habit, especially when I am busy, of making lists of things to do, so I can prioritize them.   I use bits of paper, backs of envelopes, or whatever is handy.  Anyone else here make lists of things to do?    What is on the top of yours?  What is first?  What is the top priority?  What is the one thing you absolutely must get done today? 
            That really is what the lawyer is asking Jesus in today’s Gospel.  "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"     The lawyer is really asking about priorities.  If you don’t keep any of the other commandments, which is the one you have to do; what comes first on the list:  not first in order, but first in importance.  What do you have to make sure you do first? 
            Jesus gives, as always, a wonderful answer.  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 (in importance):  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
            So this is the most important, the most critical, the one thing you have to do even if you don’t get to anything else today, and that is to love:  Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.  That is at the top of your list today, and every day of your life. 
            Now just a couple of things about this.  First of all, what do you need in order to love?  Well, in spite of Fr. Bell’s insistence I get an iPhone, you don’t need a smart phone, or a tablet computer, or any electronics at all in order to love.  It doesn’t make any difference what clothes you wear, what car you drive – or if you even drive at all.  You don’t need a college degree, or citizenship papers, or a photo ID, or membership in any club or party in order to love.  In fact, you can be poor, sick, disabled, handicapped, homeless, undocumented, and even have bad breath, and still be able to love.  Everyone can love.
            Secondly, it is a good thing that everyone can love, because this is the one thing that really, really matters.  In fact, it is about the ONLY thing that really matters.  A hundred years from now how much money your made, how popular you were, how many awards you received, how big your house was, how clever and charming and sexy you were, how big your flat screen TV was, will not matter to you at all.
St. Paul tells us that in the long run, for all eternity, only three things will matter: 
Faith, Hope and Love.  And guess which of those three is the greatest???
            So, the most important commandment is to love.  To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  That is the main thing you have to do.  IF you don’t do that, then how popular, or powerful, or rich, or feared, or sexy, or talented you are won’t matter at all. 
Love is what matters.
            Third and finally, Jesus is NOT talking about love as a feeling, or an emotion, or anything like that.  For Jesus love is an action, a decision, a commitment.  It must be lived out in acts.  So going back to the beginning of our first reading today we hear:  Thus says the LORD:   "You shall not molest or oppress an alien,…”     
This passage is not talking about Martians and extra-terrestrials.  Aliens here means people from other lands and countries; what we today call immigrants.  You shall not molest or oppress an immigrant:  legal or illegal.  If you disagree with that you will have to take it up with the Lord. 
This is how love is lived out.  God also says in our first reading:  You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.”  These are the classic Biblical categories for the poor and the powerless.  In other words, looking out for the welfare and rights of people who are vulnerable -  immigrants, widows, orphans, the poor - is how we love.  And Jesus reinforces that teaching.  Just read Matthew’s Gospel Chapter 25 if you doubt it. 
            The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recognizes this of course, and gives us some tools to use on their website.  They have an entire website dedicated to the issue of immigration called  Our Bishops give us some practical actions to take to show our concern for immigrants.   The opening page of their website is titled “Help Block the Expansion of E-Verify in the Absence of Compre-hensive Immigration Reform.”  Not a very catchy title, but an important work of justice.     
On that web page is information to help you take action NOW to assist in this work.  Later on the page, you can send a postcard to the President and to Congress in support of comprehensive immigration reform, and in particular defense of the DREAM Act, which would give students who have grown up and graduated from high school in
the United States the opportunity to earn legal status through higher edu­cation or military service.
        These are the practical, nuts and bolts ways of following the Lord God’s injunctions in today’s first reading.  These kinds of actions are the practical ways of doing what Jesus teaches us:  to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind, and to love our neighbor as our self.   There are copies of some of the information sheets from the website available at the doors of the church, or you can go online and see for yourself. 
            We are called, above and before all else, to love.  But not love as some sort of gushy emotion.  The love that Christ shows us is love that acts, that gives, that speaks the truth, that helps others, that puts oneself on the line.  That is the kind of love Jesus speaks of.  That is the kind of love Jesus lived.  That is what Jesus calls all of us to. 
It is how we will be judged.  It is the only thing that really matters. 
It must be at the top of your list.   AMEN.

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