Father Nathan Homily | October 25, 2020
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
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.
— Matthew 22:36-40
Father Nathan | Homily
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isidor Isaac Rabi, a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, and one of the developers of the atomic bomb, was once asked how he became a scientist. Rabi replied that every day after school his mother would talk to him about his school day. She wasn’t so much interested in what he had learned that day, but how he conducted himself in his studies. She always inquired, “Did you ask a good question today?” “Asking good questions,” Rabi said, “made me become a scientist.” In order to ask a good question I think you need to have noble motives behind the question.
YOU HAVE TO WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH. YOU NEED TO HAVE THE YEARNING TO KNOW THE TRUTH.
The Greatest Commandment(s)
The Pharisees, by contrast, already had the answers to their questions. They felt they already knew the truth. The Pharisees come to Jesus once again with a question designed to do damage to the reputation of Jesus.
Jesus answers the lawyer but instead of choosing one commandment, he chooses two. And if we look carefully at his response we can find in two of the commandments the third commandment. Instead of coming up with one commandment that is the greatest, Jesus offers three.
1) We are to love God with all of our strength.
2) We are to love our neighbor. But we are to love our neighbor as
3) we love ourselves.
So the third commandment is that we love ourselves. If you were to ask Jesus, then, what is the great commandment, he would offer this triple commandment of love: a) love of God, b) love of self, c) love of neighbor.
He would suggest that this is God’s greatest revelation of how we should act. It is that upon which everything else hangs—both the law and all the prophets. So since this is so important and central a revelation, we should spend a little time reflecting upon it. We can do so by asking ourselves why does Jesus choose the three commandments and what are their relationships with each other?
Love Our neighbor
We can start with the command which is most obvious, the commandment to love our neighbor. Now neighbor here is not the person who lives next door. The neighbor is anyone we meet, anyone at all. Our neighbor is everyone in the world.
The commandment is we are to love our neighbor. The necessity of this commandment is clear, and its impact cannot be underestimated. Imagine what a different world we could live in if we could follow this one commandment if people could relate to one another out of love instead of out of jealousy, greed, and resentment.
To follow this commandment would truly change our world. Yet it is a difficult commandment to follow. Why is it that so often that we are unable to love our neighbor? We move now to the second commandment: love of self.
We are so often unable to love our neighbor because we do not have a genuine love of self.
In an average year in the United States, 22,000 people kill themselves, and 100,000 more tries. The real cause for such attempts says the psychiatrists, is a sense of guilt and a desire to punish oneself. If we are God’s creation, and if we are created like God because He loves us, we must think well of ourselves. We are well-made, we are God’s handiwork and we are created like our Creator. There is an important message here – we are to love ourselves. We are God-made! And let’s remember, God makes us well. It would be blasphemy to hate ourselves since God is our Creator.
Only those who genuinely love themselves are able to love others.
Those who consider themselves unworthy and unlovable have no love to give. Those whose dominant attitude is one of failure or anger can only strike out at others in jealousy, hatred, or perhaps even violence. In order to genuinely follow the first commandment, we must follow the second. We must love ourselves so that we are able to extend love to others. But then how do we establish an adequate love of self? Here the believer knows where to turn – to the third commandment: we are to love God with all our strength.
Love God with All your strength
It is when we understand God’s love for us and can respond to God in love that we discover our worth and our value. God’s love is unconditional and transformative. When we embrace God’s love for us despite all of our mistakes and failings then we understand our true worth and value. Then we can love ourselves and through that love others.
The great commandment according to Jesus is the triple commandment of love,
to embrace God’s love for us, so that we can come to an adequate love of self so that we can extend that love to others.
This commandment of Jesus is not only striking poetry. It is a very practical truth that we can apply to our own lives. When we face other people who are difficult to love, people who irritate us, people who have hurt us, people whose attitude and stance is contrary to what we understand or can appreciate, we sometimes try to love them by finding good in them. But often it is our blindness to their goodness that is the problem in the first place.
Therefore, a more successful way to love those that are difficult to love is by finding goodness in ourselves, by remembering that we are chosen sons and daughters of God. By remembering how we have been blessed, how often we have been forgiven for our failings, how frequently we have been lost and God has found us and saved us, how God’s love for us is unconditional, we can gain a sense of how we are worthy and lovable in God’s eyes. It is by claiming God’s love for us that we can find the freedom to spread love to others, even when they are difficult to love.
There is not enough love in our world. All of us can come up with excuses for why other people do not deserve our love.
we must remember that we do not deserve God’s love and yet God loves us nevertheless.
When we can claim that unconditional love that God has for us, we will be free to love others. Then, and only then, will we know the mystery of living Jesus’ greatest commandment.
Have a Blessed Week,
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Past Messages from Father Nathan
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