Theme: WE LOVE GOD, NEIGHBOR AND ONESELF BECAUSE GOD FIRST LOVED US
- Deuteronomy 6:2-6;
- Psalm 17 (18): 2-4. 47. 51. R/ v. 2;
- Hebrews 7:23-28
- Mark 12:28-34
Today is the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year B. The readings today tell us about the greatest commandment of the Law, that is, we are to love the Lord our God with all our soul, all our heart, all our mind and with all our strength, that is, we are to love the Lord our God with our whole person and being! And we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves! Three things come to mind:
(i) We love because God first loved us! (1 Jn 4:19) We love God because God first loved us. We love our neighbor because God first loved us. And we love ourselves because God first loved us. Our love for God, neighbor and oneself is only a response to God’s first love for us!
(ii) We cannot love God if we do not also love our neighbor!
“Anyone who says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, is a liar, since whoever does not love the brother whom he can see cannot love God whom he has not seen. Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him, that whoever loves God, must also love his brother.” (1 Jn 4: 20-21; NJB)
But more importantly, we cannot love our brother if we do not first love God, because love comes from God!
“Love consists in this: it is not we who loved God, but God loved us and sent his Son to expiate our sins. My dear friends, if God loved us so much, we too should love each other.” (1 Jn 4:10-11; NJB) H. Fuller (Preaching the Lectionary, 1984) tells us that Jesus joined the first and second commandments in a radical sense:
“Love of God is illusory if it does not issue in love of neighbor, and love of neighbor is refined self-love if it does not proceed from the love of God.”
(iii) In the year 2007, 138 Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals, etc. from all over the world, including 2 from Malaysia wrote a letter to Pope Benedict XVI to dialogue on these two greatest commandments to love God and neighbor! Our Pope accepted the invitation to dialogue, emphasizing that one cannot love God if one does not also love one’s neighbor!
The letter was entitled “A Common Word Between Us and You”! (13th October 2007) The common word is love, that is, love of God and love of neighbor! When two of the greatest religions of the world, that is, Christianity and Islam, come together to dialogue on the two greatest commandments of God, there is hope for love and peace in the world! The dialogue is still going on!
The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading also tells us about the greatest commandment of the Law, that is,
“The Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” (Dt 6:4-5; Sunday Missal (SM))
The first reading also tells us that if we keep the commandments of God, especially the commandment to love God, we will be blessed with long life; long life for ourselves, for our children and for our grand children. We will also be blessed with prosperity and fertility so that we will increase and multiply and have many children and grand children! We will also be blessed with a land flowing with milk and honey, that is, a land of grace and a land of abundance!
The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. Thus the first sentence of the responsorial psalm from which the response is taken:
“I love you, Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my saviour.” (Ps 17 (18): 2-3; SM)
Indeed, the Lord saved us (NJBC) by loving us in his Son Jesus Christ! Thus verses 4. 47 and 51 of the responsorial psalm:
“The Lord is worthy of all praise: when I call I am saved from my foes. Long life to the Lord, my rock! Praised be the God who saves me. He has given great victories to his king and shown his love for his anointed.” (Ps 17 (18): 4. 47. 51; SM)
And thus the response:
“I love you, Lord, my strength.” (Ps 17 (18): 2; SM)
The second reading tells us about the differences between the Levitical Priesthood and the Priesthood of Jesus Christ:
(i) The Levitical Priesthood is temporary and transitory, but the Priesthood of Jesus Christ is eternal and permanent.
(ii) The Levitical priest is himself a sinner, but Jesus Christ is sinless.
(iii) The Levitical priest offers sacrifices every year and according to the letter to the Hebrews, everyday, but Jesus Christ offered himself once and for all!
(iv) The Levitical priest cannot save, but Jesus Christ is the only Savior of the world!
Today in the Eucharist, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we make present, real and effective the once and for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our salvation and today in the Eucharist we receive the Holy Spirit to help us love God with all our soul, our heart, our mind and our strength, and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves! A happy and blessed Sunday to all of you! Amen!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.