October 29, 2020 Father De Celles Homily

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 25, 2020 – 11 AM

Homily by Fr. John De Celles

St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church

Springfield, VA

One of the most important and most talked about values of our times

          is the idea of “love”.

It’s all around us everywhere we turn

          —every TV show, every movie, every book has a love interest.

Even the politicians and news shows talk about

          the need for less “hate” and more love in our society.

So let’s talk about love today.

But not “love” the way the world thinks of it

          but love the way it truly is:

                    love the way God thinks of it.

In today’s Gospel we find Jesus once again being questioned by the Pharisees

          -specifically by a lawyer.

He asks him: “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?’

And without hesitation Jesus responds:

          “You shall love the Lord, your God,

                   with all your heart,…soul, and …mind.

          This is the greatest and the first commandment.

          The second is like it:

                   You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

What is Jesus doing here?

The lawyer asked Jesus about the “commandments,”

          meaning the 10 commandments,

          and Jesus seems to responds with 2 new commandments?

Sometimes people think this means that these

          two “love” commandments of Jesus

          somehow do away with the 10 commandments of Moses

                   —so that anything done out of “love” is okay.

In fact, many people point to these words of Christ—even many Christians-

          to explain away behavior and attitudes

                   directly contrary to the 10 commandments.

Some even take this to the extreme and say

          if you love someone you ought to kill them when they’re suffering too much,

          or if you love someone you can be sexually active with them,

           even if they’re not your spouse, or even if they’re the same sex as you.

Love makes everything ok.

This understanding of love and the commandments

          sees love primarily as a way to make the individual feel happy:

                    as sort of a means to an end:

                             if we all “love” each other

                             then we’ll  all be free to do whatever we feel like,

                                      without anyone stopping us.

So if you love someone, it seems,

          you won’t impose rules on them that they don’t like,

                   or aren’t flexible enough to bend

                             to meet his or her subjective needs,

                                      or at least the needs they feel they have.

And so commandments take a back seat

          to whatever an individual thinks is “loving.”

But this is completely the opposite of what Jesus thinks.

It comes from a mistaken view that many people have of the commandments

          as just a bunch of arbitrary rules that God made up one day.

As if God woke up one day 3000 years ago and said

          “how can I make their life difficult?”

But there’s nothing new about this attitude:

          a very similar attitude toward the commandments

                   was very common in Jesus’ day.

In fact that’s the main reason Jesus was so critical of many of

          the Pharisees and Scribes,

                   who held a very legalistic view of the commandments,

                             thinking that if they could just keep the literal meaning,

                                                and find the loopholes in those rules,

                                       then they would be saved.

But Jesus had a very different view of the commandments

          —a view that He didn’t just make up in His lifetime on earth.

Because Jesus’ formulation of the two greatest commandments

          is actually an exact quote from the writings of Moses

          in the Old Testament books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus,

                   where Moses was actually summarizing the 10 commandments.

To “love your neighbor as yourself”

          was a summary of the 4th through 10th commandments:

                   if you love your neighbor

                             you won’t disrespect your parents or cheat on your spouse,

                             and you won’t kill or lie or steal from your neighbor.

And to “love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind”

          was first a summary of the first 3 commandments:

                   to not have strange gods, or take God’s name in vain,

                             and to keep holy the Lord’s day.

But it was also extended to the rest of the 10 commandments,

          since to love God was to love what He had created

          —especially to love those whom He had created in His image

                   —human beings.

And the So Jesus says the second greatest commandment is like the first.

And so Jesus tells us elsewhere in the Gospels:

          “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.

                    I have come not to abolish but to fulfill the law.”

Jesus doesn’t throw out the laws the Pharisees clung to,

          but instead He reinforces even “the letter of the law”.

But He calls us not to be shallow

          and depend on a merely technical legalistic interpretation of the law,

          but to go deeper and let the law encompass

                   all of our lives and all of our actions.

He calls us to keep the commandments with all of our hearts, in love,

          because the commandments tells us how to love in truth.

Because the commandments are rooted in the heart and mind of God Himself

          —God who is both love and truth at the same time.

Let’s think about one of the most dramatic experiences

          of love human beings have:

                    the experience of a man and woman “in love”.

When a man and woman really love each other,

          when they’re in the zenith of the romance

                    –they don’t think in terms of minimums, but of maximums.

They don’t just think what’s the least amount of this love that I can get by with,

          but they want and allow their love to seep into everything they do and think.

So they don’t want to hurt each other in any way:

          and so they don’t just agree not to beat each other,

                   rather the very thought of inflicting even the slightest pain

                             –physical or emotional

                   –is unimaginable.

And so Jesus says, if you love God

          and the creatures He created to be like Him

          —your neighbor

                   –“Thou shalt not kill” them.

But not only that:

          if you love them you won’t even think about hurting them in any way.

If you love them, you’ll protect them and be considerate,

          treating them with the kindness and concern

                   that you would give even to yourself.

Also, two people in love give themselves to each other in every way they can

          -they give their time, their emotions

                   and their physical presence to each other,

                             and they can’t begin to think about giving themselves

                                       in the same way to someone else.

They don’t want to stay late at work, or to be with their friends

          when they could be at home or on a date with their beloved,

This is especially seen in the love of spouses,

          which is so beautifully experienced in the complete gift

          of their bodies to one another.

In light of this, Jesus tells us to respect the awesome meaning

          of spousal love expressed in this gift.

And so he says, if you love me and mine, not only don’t commit adultery,

          but also don’t even look at [someone] with lust”

                   because that’s the same as

                             “committing adultery with [them] in your heart.”

If you want true love, keep the “rules” of love,

          but not as a bunch of legalistic constructs

                    -don’t obey the rules like a lawyer looking for loopholes,

                             but like a true lover seeking to give.

Don’t look for the “minimum” you can get away with loving,

          but strive to love as much as you can.

And if you can’t love in the little and undemanding ways,

          you’ll never be able to understand the love

                   that requires real commitment to Christ.

Love will not be the motivation for and the meaning of

                   living the commandments,

          but rather they will become merely empty rules

                    that must be ignored for society’s false notions of love.

When we leave here today we’ll be surrounded by a world that celebrates “love,”

          but a notion of love that is radically different from the love of Jesus Christ.

A notion of love that sees love primarily as merely a means to an end: pleasure.

A love built on selfishness, not on selflessness.

A love seeking to receive and take, not seeking to give and sacrifice.

A notion that society has built into sort of a pagan idol,

          so that whatever is done in its name is holy and good,

          and requires that moral norms must be constantly changed and adapted

                             to give ME satisfaction now.

Whether it means ignoring the commandments so that we can

          lie in the name of love,

          steal in the name of love,

          abuse parents or children in the name of love

          or even kill innocent human life in the name of love,

                   whether it’s aborting a baby in the womb

                             to spare it from living with some disability,

                   or “euthanizing” an aged parent to spare them from a lingering illness.

Or whether it means ignoring the commandments so we can

          commit adultery in the name of love, whether that means

                   cheating on your spouse,

                   divorcing and remarrying without

                             concern for your children

                             or bothering with an annulment,

                    or living with your fiancé,

                    or having sex with your boyfriend or girlfriend,

                    or even condoning same sex perversions.

This is not the true love of our God, Jesus Christ,

          but the false love of some fictitious god,

                   a pagan idol created by modern secular culture.

As St. Paul reminds us in today’s second reading, as Christians:

          “you [have] turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.”

And Jesus says “not one letter of the law will be changed.”

Today, Jesus tells us:

          “The whole law and the prophets

                   depend on these two commandments” of love.

As we continue with this celebration of the Eucharist,

          the sacrament of Christ’s total self-sacrifice of love for us,

          let us pray that we may choose to follow the way of true love.

Let us follow the commandments not as lawyers, but as lovers.

Let us truly live every minute

          loving God with our whole heart, soul, and mind,

          and love our neighbors eve as we love ourselves.