Homily 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 29th October 2023
There is probably nothing that a person can do that can so quickly bring to the surface all of one’s most deeply rooted insecurities and self-doubts, as can watching a few TV commercials or the equivalent online. The fact is that all of those small anxieties over how we look and feel and smell, spring from a much larger one, one to which every human being ever born is subject. And that is, “What do people think of me?” To put it all in a word, “am I really loveable?”
We need to be appreciated, to be loved. The experience of loving and being loved is really the touchstone of human life. It is what makes life worth living, and it is ultimately the only thing that does so.
In the Gospel reading, Christ speaks to the centrality of love in human life. He says that love is not only the key to a satisfying human life, it is also the only way to be saved.
The pharisees try to draw Christ into an argument by asking him which is the greatest, the most binding of all the laws. And the first part of his answer was expected. Love God first, always, and above everything else. But the second half of his answer was unexpected. Love your neighbour as yourself.
Certainly, love your neighbour was not a new idea to the Hebrews. What was new was the importance that Christ gave to that commandment. Christ virtually draws a parallel between the love of God and the love of neighbour. To say that the second commandment is like the first is to say that what one does to people, one does to God.
In a sense, love will never be ‘understood’…it is, after all, a mystery. We may not be able to say definitively what love is, but we can say a great deal about what is it like. We can say that it is free…a free gift of self, given to another, for the good of that other. Love is not a contract or a business deal. It is a free gift.
And that means that love is not a need. That kind of stance is something much closer to dependence than to a free gift of self. It is nice to be needed, but it is much better to be loved.
Contrary to the popular saying, love is not blind. Or it shouldn’t be. It should see not only with the eyes of the senses and of the mind, but with the eyes of faith. It should see below the surface, to the essential dignity and infinite value of every human being.
It is a complex thing, this commandment that Christ gives us, to love another and in doing so love God. It may take us a lifetime, even more than a lifetime, to get it right.