2016-08-28 Homily. Father François Beyrouti. Loving God and others like God loves us.
August 28, 2016. Homily. Father François Beyrouti.
15th Sunday After Pentecost. The Great Commandment. Loving God and others like God loves us.
Gospel. Matthew 22:35-46.
At that time one of the doctors of the Law, putting Jesus to the test, asked him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus questioned them, saying, “What do you think of the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “David’s.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord: Sit thou at my right hand till I make thy enemies thy footstool?’ If David, therefore, calls him Lord, how is he his son?” And no one could answer him a word; neither did anyone dare from that day forth to ask him any more questions.
Imagine if we had a religion that allowed us to hate people, gossip about them, hit or kill them when we want, steal their money, and be as mean to them as we wanted.
Sometimes people say that religions have too many rules, so wouldn’t it be great if we had a religion with no rules and we were allowed to do whatever we want any time we want?
This might be convenient for us but think about the chaos that would create?
There is a story of an elder brother who was teaching his younger brother how to drive. The elder brother told the younger brother to never worry about red lights. He explained to him that he does not have to stop at a red light because when people see him coming they will stop or get out of the way. The elder brother started driving and went through the first red light and he was right everyone either stopped or got out of the way. The elder brother did it again and again to show his younger brother that he never has to stop at a red light. The next day the younger brother was driving and he got to a green light and stopped. His friend asked him why he stopped. He replied “Just in case my older brother is crossing that red light.”
We might it more convenient to not stop at a red light but imagine the chaos if no one stopped at red lights.
In a very similar way, we might find it more convenient to hate, gossip, hit, steal, or be mean but what if everyone was like that? If you were in a room full of people like this, you definitely would not feel safe and you would want to leave that room as soon as possible.
It is strange that we sometimes act without thinking of the feelings of others, but we get very offended when someone acts in a way that hurts our own feelings.
In today’s Gospel a lawyer asks Jesus “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36) Jesus answers: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
To help us live a balanced life Jesus taught what we now know as the Golden Rule. Jesus summarizes all the teachings of the Bible in these two principles. He tells us to love God with our whole heart, soul, and mind and to lover others as ourselves. Jesus places them in this order because we cannot love ourselves or others properly if we don’t first love God.
If Jesus teaches us to love others as we love ourselves then perhaps we should also love God the way God loves us.
The Bible is full of examples that demonstrate how God loves us. The most important is that God showed us His love by creating us in His image and likeness. This means that God has made us like Him and has given us the ability to know, to learn, to serve, to create, and to care as He does.
God not only creates us with these abilities but He repeatedly shows that He knows, serves, and cares for us.
For example, God tells the prophet Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” (Jeremiah 1:5). We also read in the book of Psalms: “You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.  I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know” (Psalm 13:13-14).
These verses show us that God loves us because He wants to know, serve, and care for us. We reciprocate that love and show God that we love Him by knowing, serving, and caring for Him. We can better know God by reading the Bible and reflecting on all the wonderful things that God has done. The Bible helps us to discover great treasures that demonstrate just how much God love us.
For example, in Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans we read: “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Why, one will hardly die for a righteous man -- though perhaps for a good man one will dare even to die.  But God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).
The beautiful thing about our faith is that Jesus tells us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind and He actually also demonstrates to us throughout His whole life that He loves us with his whole heart, soul, and mind.
We do not need to find creative ways to love God all we have to do is to love God in the many ways that He has shown us that He loves us.
We cannot love others if we have not first appreciated how much God loves and serves us. If we do not see our love for others as a reflection of God’s love for us then we remain at the level of merely tolerating others. We can easily lose our focus that the basis of authentic Christian love is rooted in God’s love and not convenience or a mere toleration of others.
Therefore, when Jesus says: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” He challenges us to first look within ourselves and discover just how much God loves us.
Our religion may seem inconvenient because we are not allowed to hate, gossip, hurt, kill, or steal from others. However the goal of our life is not convenience but to discover on a daily basis just how much God loves us despite our weaknesses and how we need to love others despite their weaknesses.
That is why Jesus says that loving God with our whole heart, soul, and mind and loving others as ourselves is the basis of our faith.
Father François Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA 92870