Archive for category Love of God and Neighbor

Matthew 22:34-40 The Greatest Commandment

There is a bible scholar who said, “The message of the Scripture from the first page to the very last is love”. Indeed love is the main message of Christianity, others are just commentaries. Apart from it no sacrifice, no offering, no worship, no conduct are holy, pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. Hence, the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. It is the foundation, center and the summit of Christian life.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself”  (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. “The commandment of love encompass all of the commandments of the Decalogue and fulfill them. All are contained in them, all follows from them, all strive toward them” (OR, June 1991). “Love is the greatest and the first of all the commandments and in it all the others are included and made one” (JP II Address to Youth). It is a resume and condensation of the fullness of the Law (Rm. 13:8, 10) that suffices. So it is that charity expresses all, contains all, crowns all.

Alan Watts writes, “One may master all the rules of conduct but fail to be a Christian for lack of love. Mere obedience to a law will never of itself produce love, because love is the very life of God and there is no system or set of rules whereby one can become its possessor” (Behold the Spirit). Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification” (LG 42).

I therefore, exhort you “love one another in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it” (see 1 Jn 3:18).  because when man is loved, St. Thomas says, God is loved, for man is the image of God (cf. “Commentary on St. Matthew”, 22:4) and an object of His love (cf. St. Vincent de Paul). Let us, therefore, renew our commitment to love God and one another not only with our words, not only with our promises, not only with our good intention but in truth and in deeds.

Do you want to go to hell? If you want to go to hell, just refuse to love, just neglect to love, just take love for granted and you will go to hell the easiest, the fastest and the surest way. Please don’t go the hell.

 

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Luke 12:49-53 Jesus: a cause of division

The new millennium has witnessed and continues to witness various and different faces of violence, division and situations of unpeace. Hardly any day passes that we do not hear the sad news of violent aggression and brutality unleashed against innocent people somewhere around the world. To make matters worse, perpetrators of these acts of violence often try to justify these atrocities by claiming that they are fighting a holy war in God’s name. Think of the crusades, the Taliban in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. And the latest is the ISIS or ISIL.

Today’s readings are indeed a call to war: not a war against other people but a war against sin and evil; not a war against people we perceive as evil, but a war against the evil one, the devil.

Jesus shocked his disciples when he declared that he would cast fire and cause division rather than peace upon the earth.  This is a disturbing word knowing Jesus as the Prince of Peace who has come “to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk 1:79) and to dispense peace “among those whom he favors” (Lk 2:14) Here he makes it clear that he cast fire and brings division rather than peace.  In Matthew’s parallel verse (10:34), Jesus brings a sword.

Is Jesus contradicting himself on his teachings about love peace and unity? Is Jesus contradicting himself the fourth precept of the Decalogue or Ten Commandment which is, “Honor your father and mother!” Certainly not. Jesus, in saying those paradoxical words, did not intend to destroy family and other human relations, ties and institutions. Rather he was only telling his disciples, in a forceful language, the following:

First, to choose and to follow Jesus is a matter of personal choice. No can one can make decision for us. Not even the Church or the State. Not even our family. And when we choose, either we choose and follow Jesus or reject him. There is no middle way. There is no half-way. There is no other alternative. There is no other option. Please bear in mind that our sanctification and salvation depend on the kind of choice we make. Choose God and you choose life, happiness and peace.

Second, if we opted to choose and follow Jesus then our loyalty, obedience and faithfulness to him must be urgent, exclusive and unparalleled. When it comes to hierarchy of values and priorities in life, God always takes precedence over possessions and relations. To choose and follow Jesus only and always may  sometimes bring division and conflict. This is the necessary consequence and cost of following Jesus. This substantially explains the paradoxical words of Jesus in today’s Gospel.

Third, Jesus’ message of love, peace and unity does not necessarily mean that we compromise with evil and tolerates injustices and wrong-doings. Peace and unity that we rightly desire can be achieved not by compromise, force and violence but by doing the will of God for us and through us. Let this Christian moral principles always guide us: Do good and hate sin! Love sinner and hate evil!

In today’s Mass, Jesus invites all of us to examine who we love first and foremost.  Does the love of Jesus Christ compel you to put God first in all you do (2 Corinthians 5:14)? A true disciple loves God above all else and is willing to forsake all for Jesus Christ.  Jesus insists that his disciples give him the loyalty which is only due to God, a loyalty which is higher than spouse or kin because it is possible that family and friends can become our enemies when they prevent and hinder us from following  and serving the Lord.

Let our “faith in God leads us to turn to him alone as our first origin and our ultimate goal, and neither to prefer anything to him nor to substitute anything for him” (CCC 229).

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Mt 25:31-46 The Judgment of the Nations

 Solemnity of Christ the King – Year A
Ez 34:11-12,15-17; 1Cor 15:20-26, 28; Matt 25:31-46

We call Fernando Poe, Jr. as king of Philippine movies or Miss Gloria Romero as queen of the Philippine movies. We have also princes and princesses of Philippine action movies. We call Sharon CuÑeta as megastar or Maricel Soriano as diamond star or Vilma Santos as star of all seasons and Nora as Superstar.

We call too Inday Badiday as queen of intrigues but I don’t know if there is also king of intrigues. Christy Fermin as somebody says that she’s queen of gossip. But I don’t know if there is king of gossip. How about Jesus Christ? We call Him as King of all nations and today we dedicate this last Sunday of liturgical calendar of the church for this title. Next Sunday we will enter into the season of Advent.

The gospel that is being used is one of the most vivid parables Jesus eve spoke and the lesson is crystal clear that God will judge us in accordance with our reaction to human need. His judgment will not depend on the knowledge we have amassed or the fame we have acquired or the fortune we have gained or the success we have achieved but on the help and love that we have given for our neighbor.

This parable teaches us three things about that we must give to the three Ls (the Lost, the Least and the Last) of our society.

First, it must be help in simple things. Giving food to those who are in hungry is simple and very easy. Giving a glass of water to those who are thirsty is very simple and easy too. Everybody can do it. Or giving a bed to those who have none or visiting the sick and the prisoners are very simple and easy which everybody can do everyday. These deeds do not need our names to be written in a replica or to be published in a newspaper or to be flashed in the projector of the church so that others may see and read.

Second, it must be help which is uncalculating. Those who help did not think that they were helping Christ and thus piling up eternal merit. They helped because they could not stop themselves in helping. They help not because they run for public office or so that they may vote for them. They helped because it was natural and instinctive for them to help. Whereas, on the other hand, the attitude of those who failed to help was: “if we have known it was you we would gladly have to help, but we thought it was only common tao (person) who was not worth helping.”

I, myself, I am a victim of this. We back in 1988 when I was in my Spiritual Pastoral Formation Year (SPFY) in Cagayan de Oro City, we have had a one-month hospital exposure where we worked as janitors of the hospital. Some of the doctors and nurses knew that we were seminarians. It happened that I entered the room of a patient belonging to a middle class family in order to clean the room. The patient was sleeping. The mother of the patient got angry with me because I entered the room and I’m disturbing the patient in her sleeping. I reasoned out that it was the time for us to clean the room and I don’t know that she was sleeping but she did not listen. She continued talking and so I went out from the room without cleaning the room too.

Afterwards, she asked one of the janitors about me. The janitor told the lady that I am a seminarian. The following day when I entered the room, the lady was so accommodating and even gave me snack and invited me to have a lunch. She told me: “ I was thinking yesterday that you are just a mere janitor in this hospital that is why I shouted you yesterday and got angry with you. If you have just told me that you are a seminarian, then, I would not do it for you.”

“So, that’s the way you treat ordinary people like janitors?” I told her but she did not answer.

Up to this day, there are those who help because they are given praise, thanks and publicity and in that sense they have already received their rewards. But help like this is not help at all but in order to expand his or her self-esteem. I rather prefer and appreciate those who do not want their names to be published but just considering themselves as anonymous donors because in that sense there is a fulfillment and meaning in life.

Third, all such help given is given to him and such help withheld is withheld from him. Just like St. Francis of Assisi. He was a wealthy man, high-born and high-spirited but he was not happy. He felt that life was incomplete. Then one day he was out riding and met a leper, loathsome and repulsive in the ugliness of his disease. Something moved St. Francis to dismount and fling his arms around this wretched sufferer and in his arms the face of the leper changed into the face of Christ.

May be today we could experience what St. Francis had experienced but there are so many instances that Christ is very much present. What they? You may discover them in others and our conscience will tell us.

Fr. Joseph Benetiz
http://justmehomely.wordpress.com

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Reflection:

Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine. It is said that heaven’s gate will be guarded not by Peter but by the poor who will let in only those they recognize who have helped them. There the question will no longer be what we believe in, what we have accomplished, or what we are bringing in. There and then, the question will be simpler: What have you done for these least of my brothers? And it will not be a question only of actions. We may have done charity, we may have donated much, and we may have given our time. But where was our heart? How did we live our life? Was care and concern our language?

It is also said that only two things will be asked at the end of life: First, did you find joy in your life? Second, was your life a joy to others?

Visit an orphanage with your family this Sunday 

http://graceandspace.org/welcome/home/365-days-with-the-lord/1166-the-judgment-of-the-nations.html

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Mk 12:28-34: The Greatest Commandment

Stephen E. Robinson once said, “The heart and soul of the gospel is love, and all the rest is commentary. Whatever else we may perceive religion to be, we are wrong—for true religion is love in action—God’s love for us and our love for God and for our neighbors.” (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News, 125.)

This is the same message Jesus wishes to tell us in the Gospel reading for the day: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself”  (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. The two-fold commandment of love is the resume, condensation and fulfillment of all the laws of Moses and all the teachings of the prophets. In it all the other commandments are included and made one. Indeed, charity expresses all, contains all, and crowns all.

St Jerome hands down a tradition concerning the last years of St John’s life: when he was already a very old man, he used always say the same thing to the faithful: “My children, love one another!” On one occasion, he was asked why he insisted on this: “to which he replied with these words worthy of John: ‘Because it is the Lord’s commandment, and if you keep just this commandment, it will suffice”‘ (“Comm. in Gal.”, III, 6, 10).

What are some of the implications of the two-fold commandment of love in our Christian faith and life?

First, it teaches us that the best distinguishing mark of what a Christian should be is charity. Every Christian must be convinced that God has first loved him or her and in return should also love God and His people. “The man without love has known nothing of God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:12).

Charity, therefore, is the sure mark of Christian, the way to recognize the genuine disciple of Jesus. “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (CCC 1822).

Second, it teaches us that “Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification” (LG 42)” and the perfection of Christian life consists fundamentally in charity and that the soul of holiness is charity. Why? Because love, as the bond of perfection and fullness of the law (cf. Col 3:14, Rom. 13:10), governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of sanctification. As St. Paul said: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love you neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rm 13:8-10).

Apart from love no sacrifice, no offering, no worship, no conduct are holy, pleasing and acceptable to the Lord  because the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. It is the foundation, center and the summit of Christian life.

Third, it teaches us that charity is the sure route to salvation.  “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (St. John of the Cross, Dichos 64). We will be judged on the degree and quality of our love (cf. St. John of the Cross, “Spiritual Sentences and Maxims”, 57).

In the end, what really matters or decisive is how do we answer to the question of Christ: “What did you do to the least brethren of mine? Blessed are you when you “fed the hungry Christ, gave drink to the thirsty Christ, received the homeless Christ, clothed the naked Christ and visited the sick and the imprisoned Christ” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) for Jesus will say:  “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brethren of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

In sum, “Charity is the greatest of all gifts, a sure route to holiness and salvation, and the identifying mark of the Christian: “the first and most necessary gift is charity, by which we love God above all things and our neighbor because of him. […] This is because love, as the bond of perfection and fullness of the law (cf. Col 3:14, Rom. 13:10), governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of sanctification. Hence the true disciple of Christ is marked by love both of God and of his neighbor” (Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium”, 42).

The man without love is like “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1) and has known nothing of God for God is love (see cf. 1 Jn 4:7f). The one who has no love for his brother or sister he has seen cannot love God he has not seen. He is a liar because whoever loves God must also love his brother” (see 1 Jn 4:19-21). As Christ has loved us let us, therefore, love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God.

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