October 31, 2021
In our complex, confusing world, it is not easy to know what is most important, what is the priority that we need to focus on. Jesus gives us the gift of clarity with a strong, clear answer.
- Today’s society has so many more options as to what we can do compared to Jesus’s time which had over 613 precepts of the Mosaic law on what not to do. This creates a lot of confusion and division in our society today.
- First point of charity is the fact that God is, God exist. The second point is that God is God and not some little detail in our lives. He is the Creator and the Savior.
- Whenever we put something in our life before God, that’s idolatry. The first commandment is a rejection of idolatry.
- God’s commandments are a revelation of who we are and what is best for us. His commandments are not imposed by force, but they respect our freedom.
- God is calling you to be His child. God wants to share with you His life, to be our friend, even to call us into a spouse or union with Him.
- God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit at Baptism and we need to let that Holy Spirit grow and share God’s love in us. God calls us to love, agape love.
In the passage we hear today from Deuteronomy, Jesus gives clarity to the Scribe that asks which commandment is the first of all. Jesus response is that God is, God exists. And then it goes on to say, “The Lord your God, is Lord alone. There is no other God.”
When asked what shall we do, Jesus’s response, which is, from this passage in Deuteronomy, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” How do we put into practice what to do? Jesus says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.” Jesus also gives us clarity when He said,” As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.”
One of the scribes asked Jesus, which commandment is the first of all. The Scribe is asking Jesus for some clear guidance because they count 613 precepts of the Mosaic law. So that’s a lot of things to keep in mind. And that’s just the precepts for Mosaic law without all the additional precepts and guidelines that they have added. So, it’s a lot to keep in mind that my, and make sure that I’m not doing this or not doing that, and sometimes they seem in conflict. So, he’s asking Jesus for some guidance. And in many ways, our situation is worse today. Because we have so many more options about what we can do. And our society does not have the unity that Jesus’ society, there’s so much division, even about the most fundamental things in our society, there’s division, and we have a society which many powerful forces, reject God and exclude God, from our society. And so, there’s a lot of confusion, and so many things which distract us, which seduced us, and we often feel torn, and pulled in many directions. And so, it’s not easy to know, what’s most important, what should I be doing? And then there’s the big question of what should I do with my life? What is my vocation, and again, it’s often confusing, and our life here is very short. We only have one life here on earth. And so, it’s not easy to make sure that we make the best opportunity of this time we have. And so, with all these questions, and confusion and noise that we’re surrounded by, I think Jesus gives us the gift of clarity, the gift of clarity. And so, I want to consider a little bit these words of His response. And Jesus gives the gift of clarity. I think I’ll give some muddle and confusion, I hope not too much. But it’s always striking that Jesus doesn’t say, well, it depends. And each person has their own truth and so forth. Jesus gives a very clear answer. And so, He responds by a passage, which was a key passage for the for the Jews. This was a passage that they recited twice a day. So, this is a very familiar passage. But notice when Jesus responds, He doesn’t first of all, say what we are to do. He first of all, says, Why? Why that is, He first of all, reveals the truth about reality. And then that’s going to guide how we act. And it doesn’t make sense without that truth. So, the what’s the first thing Jesus says, and so once again, He’s quoting this passage, He says, “The first is hear, O Israel, the Lord, our God, is Lord alone.” The Lord, our God, is Lord alone. And so, Jesus is reviewing and affirming this great truth, which is much more controversial today. That the first is that it wouldn’t have been necessary to say to the Israelites, but the first is that God is, that God exists. And that is important in a society like our society today, as I said, where many powerful forces are trying to exclude God and reject God, from even existing, pretending that God doesn’t even exists, that He has no place in our lives. And that is almost everything in our society. I mean, the powerful force, like almost everything in our media, treats, you know, almost all the shows and so forth and newscasts, it’s as if God does not exist. Some people still have religion, but God doesn’t exist. God is not a factor. God is not a part of us. We’re trying to figure out life. And so that’s the first point, that God is, that God exists. And this passage, which the Jesus quoted is from Deuteronomy, and it’s after God has already revealed Himself in so many powerful actions by taking them out of Egypt and leading them to the promised land. So that’s the first point, which gives a lot of clarity that God is. And so right away, it’s centering us on the most when we’re trying to figure out what should I do what is most important? It right away turns us to God. We can’t understand what we should do. What is most important, if we don’t put God first if we don’t realize that God exists, and that the second point, not only does God exist, but God is God. And that doesn’t sound too controversial. But so often we treat God as a detail. As a little part of my life, you know, I have all these different parts of my life. And one of them is my religion. But it’s a part of my life. But God is not a part of our life, God is the source of all and the reason for all. And so that’s what the spirit of adoration leads us to. Adoration is the response to the awareness that God is God. And you know, that the Catechism speaking about adoration says, which is a response to this truth, “to adore God is to acknowledge Him as God.” And again, that doesn’t sound controversial. But always the tendency in our life, especially today, is to put God as a little part, as a minor part, as one of the persons, one of the elements of my life. So, to adore God is to acknowledge Him as God as the Creator, and the Savior. He is the origin of all, and the only one who can lead us from the mess that we are in, to the happiness that we desire, our Savior, the Lord and master of everything that exists as infinite and merciful love. The worship of the one God sets man free, it doesn’t oppress man, it sets him free. The Catechism says, “from turning in on himself, that terrible slavery of being trapped in ourselves from the slavery of sin and the idolatry of the world, so that God is God.” And how much clarity that brings just to recognize that God is God. And then it goes on to say, “The Lord your God, is Lord alone. There is no other God.” He is not one God amongst many gods, the way many pagans believe. He is the One God, there is no other. He has no rivals. He is the only God. You know, that’s what we say, at the very beginning of our creed, I believe in one God. And the first commandment is, I am the Lord your God, thou shall not have false gods before Me. So, it doesn’t say everybody has their own Higher Power. You can choose higher powers, whatever you want, but there’s only one God. And people don’t each have their own gods. There is one God, you’re either in union without one God, or what you’re in union with, is not God because there’s only one. The Catechism says, speaking about idolatry. And so, this is a commandment against idolatry. And again, we don’t often think about idolatry as a problem we have. But what the Catechism says, “idolatry consists in divinizing what is not God, making of God of what is not God, treating as if it was God, what is not God, man commits idolatry, whenever he honors and reveres a creature in the place of God.” And we do that all the time. Whenever we put something in our life before God, that’s idolatry. It can be a person that can be even a very good person in my life. It can be my spouse, my children, can be my good projects, but whenever we put it in front of God, it becomes an idol. The Catechism list says, “whether this be gods with a small g or demons,” for example, in Satanism, or power, or pleasure, or race, or ancestors or the state, or money, and so forth. Jesus says, You cannot serve God and mammon. Many martyrs died for not adoring the beast, refusing even to simulate such worship. So, this first commandment is a rejection of idolatry. And so, that’s already very helpful and clear. So, we can look around and see, are there things in my life and in our society, which have become idols, which we have put first in the place of God? So that’s the first thing that Jesus does is He proclaims the truth. And then from that truth, then comes the response to then what is the first commandment? What is the most important commandment? And, in other words, what should I do? Given that truth, what should I do? So, that’s an important question, what should I do, and we don’t like somebody telling us what to do, right? None of us like that. We don’t like someone telling us what to do. But we do like it if there’s someone who can tell us how to get where we want to go. We do like if there’s someone who can help tell us how to achieve the results that we’re looking for, how to be happy, how to find the fastest and the best way to get those results, how to make something which is very complicated, simple. For instance, an athlete who wants to be a better athlete will often seek a good coach, someone who can guide him to help him know how he should train. People pay a lot of money to get a good coach, a life coach. And so that’s what God is giving us is clarity. It’s not this commandment, and this is the important thing, God’s commandments are not something which is imposed from the outside, but God’s commandments are a revelation of who you are. And what is best for you. Since He is, you could say He’s the one who wrote the owner’s manual for the human person. You know, like when you when you buy something complicated, like with a car, when you get a car, you get an owner’s manual, or like, you know, or something that can tell you how this works. People don’t read it, maybe. But the one who made it is one who is best able to say how it works, how it’s supposed to work. So, God is the one who can reveal to you how you work, what you’re made for, to give the guidance for us to know what is best for each of us. And so, His commandments also are not imposed by force, but they respect our freedom. That’s precisely the reason He gives them because each one of us is free to respond or not. So, they’re not imposed on us but they are guidance which is offered to us, we’re able to do otherwise. And so, what is then the commandment, when He asked what is the greatest commandment, and we heard Jesus’ response, which is, from this passage in Deuteronomy, “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And so, He’s revealing that God is not like a boss, who just cares that you get the results done. You know, does your boss say what I want from everybody in this company is just that they love me and they love the company, we’re not really concerned about the results. Usually what they want is someone who can get the results, whereas Jesus, the Lord says that what’s important for Him is not the results, first of all, it’s you, what He wants is union with you, communion with you. So, this is a revelation, that God is calling you to be His child, to live with Him. So, this passage is a revelation of your dignity, that you are not a slave, who is to be controlled by fear, or even a mercenary, or just a worker who has to be controlled by a salary. But what God wants to share with you is His very life, calling you to be His child, His friend, even to call you into a spouse or union with Him. But when we read this, we might think, well, that’s too hard. And we might also think, how can you command somebody to love? Doesn’t that sound funny? Command you to love somebody. So, remember what Jesus reveals, first of all, what St. John says, “We love because He first loved us.” The only way we can love is first of all, because God first of all, He’s the one who takes the initiative of loving. As Jesus said, on the night, before He died, He says, “As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love.” And so that’s another way to express this commandment, it is to abide in God’s love, to dwell in His love, to stay in His love. That’s what He’s guiding us to. So, in other words, He’s showing us how that we can stay in His love. Like a fish, which wants to stay in water, doesn’t want to get out of water, because it’ll die out of water. So, our soul lives when it’s in God. And so, He’s showing us how we can abide in His love. And so, His love is something that is always given to us. So, like a mirror cannot give light, except the light that it is receiving? Right. And so, God has called us to be like a mirror, that is reflecting back, giving back the love that He Himself is giving us. Or like a window, which doesn’t give light by itself, but it shares the light that’s coming to it. And so, we are called to like, receive the light that God has given us, and reflected back to Him, and let it pass through us to others. The point is, that what He is calling us to give is not something that we can give ourselves. But it’s something that we have to always receive from Him. And for that, He gives us His Holy Spirit. We can’t love this way by ourselves, we have our ego, our selfish, proud ego, that we all struggle with. We’re not capable of this by ourselves. But God has given you since baptism, His Holy Spirit. And so, the Holy Spirit is dwelling in you. Mortal sin rejects the Holy Spirit but if we’re in a state of grace, you have the Holy Spirit within you. And so, He’s in the deepest part of your heart and soul. And so, Jesus is not trying to tell us that you’ve got to try to force yourself to do something that is completely unnatural. He’s saying, to discover what He has placed in you, the Holy Spirit has placed, and let that Holy Spirit grow and share God’s love in you. So, that’s what St. Paul says that the Holy Spirit, the love of God has been poured out into our hearts, by the Holy Spirit has been given you. So again, this is not something that you have to do by yourself. This is becoming aware that the Holy Spirit is in you, that you have this love for God in you already. By a gift of grace. That’s what the sanctifying grace is. And so, your role is to cooperate with that sanctifying grace of the Holy Spirit that is already in you. And so, this is not something we do by ourselves, but by the Holy Spirit. And God calls us then to love. But He clarifies what love is, because there’s a lot of confusion about this word, love. And so, the word that He’s using is a word that was rarely used, that word is used in the Gospel, it’s rarely used in Greek, agape. And it’s translated in Latin, Caritas, Caritas. And we translate sometimes charity, but charity doesn’t really express all that this word means. And our word love is often used in many different ways. So, it’s important to remember and we’ve often talked about this, that God is not commanding you to feel something. He’s not telling you, you have to feel something. That’s often the problem because a person comes to Mass or sometimes, they’re trying to pray. I don’t feel this. How can He command you to experience a certain emotion? I’ve often quoted this passage from Jesus to St. Faustina, “Do not be guided by feelings.” And I’m laughing because our society is so much sadly a feeling, which are so manipulated by the evil one. Do not be guided by feelings because it is not always under your control, but all merit lies in the will. God is love. That doesn’t mean that God is a feeling. God is active, like the sun, like the sun, which is always giving its light and it’s warmth, always sharing it’s light and it’s warmth. God is active. And so, this agape, this Christian, divine love, is a decision, a choice, an act you make, to will the good, to will the good of the other person. The Catechism says, “this charity, this Agave is the theological virtue, the supernatural virtue, by which we love God, above all things for His own sake.” Not just for my interest, but for His own sake. And we love our neighbor as ourselves, for love of God, because we know Jesus, right away response our to one commandment, but another commandment to love others, as God’s children. So how can we begin to do this? How do we love Him? How do we put into practice, because He’s telling us what to do. Jesus says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love.” So, we can remain in His love, by keeping His commandments, by doing His will, seeking His will, because His will is what is best for all of us. So, if we seek His will, we’re on the path of love. And so how do we grow in love, we don’t have to wait to feel something, we can begin by making acts of love. Like if you want to be a runner, you run. If you want to be a good guitarist, you play the guitar. So, we grow in love, by making acts of love, acts of giving. And by doing that we like strengthen the muscles of our will, of our heart. So, you don’t have to wait for something to happen, you can begin to do it, even if they’re small and simple. Everything that you do that helps to get to know the Lord better. For instance, just giving Him some time, like you’re doing right now at Mass. When you have a priest that preaches this a long time, you have more opportunity to give Him time to make a sacrifice. If you’d just stop talking. Lord, I offer you this sacrifice for Him. So, I’ve given you an opportunity to become an act of love, an act of kindness, all the acts of kindness you do to others, as Jesus says, Whatever you do to others, to the least of these you do to Me, all the sacrifices little and great that we offer. And even simply telling God, I love You, or even simply telling God, I want to love You. Just a simple prayer like that is an act of love. We don’t have to feel something. In fact, the act of love has even more value when we’re struggling to make it. If God fills us with love and peace and consolation, that’s easy to make those acts. But when we’re really struggling, and we’re really dry, then those acts cost us a lot. And we don’t feel that we’re loving because we don’t feel anything, but actually that love that act is a much more valuable act of love, because it’s costing you so much. And so, this should free us from scruples, because God is not a judge who’s trying to make sure that we obeyed all the little precepts. What He wants from us to be is like a little child, who lives in His love, who lets himself be loved and responds to the love that he is receiving. And so, Jesus gives us the gift of clarity that God is God, the only God. At this very Mass that we are celebrating right now, this Holy Eucharist is that what’s at the core of the Eucharist, God’s gift of Himself to you, His personal gift to you and His invitation to you to respond to His love, to receive Him and to enter into Holy Communion with Him. And so, if you want you can close your eyes. I’ll just read you this final passage. As the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love. Amen