6.7.18 Thurs. wk. 9 – Ordinary Time (II)
2nd Letter of St. Paul to Timothy 2: 8 – 15
Gospel of Mark 12: 28 – 34
One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. The Gospel of the Lord.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Imitating God’s Love
This week we have been reflecting on chapter 12 of the Gospel according to St. Mark. And really it is a chapter of confrontation, because the religious authorities are asking questions of hoping to trip Him up. We have heard this all week long. For instance on Tuesday they asked †Jesus: ‘Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar?’ And †Jesus responded: “Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God”. (Mark 12:17) †Jesus was relativizing the authority of Caesar, not equating Caesar with God; but rather emphasizing God’s ultimate authority over all. One must obey God first.
Then yesterday, the Sadducees, who do not believe in the resurrection, asked: ‘Which of seven deceased husbands would have a claim to the wife in the afterlife?’ And †Jesus responded: “The Lord is not God of the dead but of the living; you are greatly misled”. (Mark 12:27) It is God who holds the power to life everlasting, no human being does; God has ultimate authority over life and death.
Now we have today’s Gospel. The Scribe asked: “Which is the first of all the Commandments?” Now, being a scribe, he knew there were 613 rabbinic laws. This is a game they used to play when Rabbis got together. They would say: “Which do you think is the greatest”? Again, †Jesus responded with the supremacy of God over all. He said: “The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength”. (Mark 12: 30) This is the ancient and beautiful “Shama Israel”. It states that Israel has only ‘One God’ and He is the God over all creation. Our God is omnipotent, loving, powerful and faithful, and no one or no thing can have primacy in our life over God. We are to love God with all that we are, because God loves us with complete perfection.
Father Walter Hilton, OSA, was a 14th century spiritual author and he wrote of the three loves that God has for us. First: he writes: “He loved us much when He made us in His likeness”. (Walter Hilton: The Scale of Perfection; Dom Gerard Sitwell, OSB, trans.; 1953, the Newman Press, Westminister, MD) You see, when God made us, He held us in His hand, He admired the beauty of His creation. That was when He first fell in love with us, when He created us. Secondly: “He loved us more when He redeemed us from the power of the devil and from the pains of hell through His Precious Blood”. (ibid) The love of †Jesus for us is an unconditional love. We do nothing to deserve it, and God loves us even more through the death of †Jesus , because †Jesus died for us. †Jesus found us worthy, with all of our warts and wrinkles to die for us. And God says: ‘My Son loved you so much, I love you so much’. Finally, Walter Hilton writes: “He loves us most when He gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit who is love, by which we know Him, and love Him and are assured that we are His sons and daughters chosen for salvation”. (ibid) God gives us His Divinity for our salvation; we share in God’s Divinity. What God is – we hope to be. God unselfishly gives us His Holy Spirit, His very Self out of love for us. That’s how much He loves us! And nothing, St. Paul writes: “Will ever, ever separate us from that love of God in Christ †Jesus ”. (Rom.8:39) Nothing can separate us. This is why God deserves the totality of our love, the maximum love that we can give Him, because He loves us so much. We love God to the maximum through the Second Commandment that †Jesus gave: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. (Mark 12:31) These two Commandments are inseparable, they are of one substance, just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One God, these Commandments are One. Through God’s love we share in His Eternal Divinity, we share in His Holiness.
†Jesus does not put God first for selfish reasons: “You should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength”. He doesn’t do that for selfish reasons, but He knows we can accomplish so much more when we work with God; so God should be first. And if we cooperate with God’s Grace, all things are possible.
In his apostolic exhortation on “The Call to Holiness in Today’s World”, here is what Pope Francis writes. “Holiness, then, is not about swooning in mystic rapture. As St. John Paul II said: ‘If we truly start out anew, from the contemplation of Christ, we must learn to see Him especially in the faces of those with whom He Himself wished to be identified’…In this call to recognize Him in the poor and suffering, we see revealed the very heart of Christ – His deepest feelings and choices which every saint seeks to imitate’”. (Gaudium Exsultate, 96)
These two Commandments are essential for Holiness, in fact, that’s the definition of Holiness. If we could just live those two Commandments we will be saints. First: to love God and recognize God’s absolute supremacy over all people, and all things. And secondly: to love our neighbor as we want to be loved. Finally- Pope Francis writes: “Our Lord made it very clear – that holiness can not be understood, or lived apart from these demands – for mercy is the beating heart of the Gospel.” (Ibid,97)
In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.