We hear words today in our gospel reading that lots of us
have heard many times before.
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart,
with all your soul, and with all your mind;”
love your neighbor as yourself.”
Hearing familiar words like these today reminds me of the
story of an old priest who met a member of his congregation who began to
boast: “Father, I have been through the
gospels many times.” Rather than praise him the priest said gently: “The
important thing is not how often you have been through the gospels but how
often the gospels have been through you.”
The purpose of the gospels that we read each week at Mass
is not to recreate the words and works of Jesus ... but to let them recreate
Earlier in Matthew’s gospel Jesus says something to his
apostles that we need to really contemplate deeply. He said:
“These people have become close-minded and hard of hearing.
They have shut their eyes so that
their eyes never see.
Their ears never hear. Their minds
And they never return to me for
healing!” Matthew 13:15
Sadly ... those words often describe us
We come to church with our ears and eyes so full of the
cares of our world we don’t look or listen deeply with open minds and eager
hearts. Our hearts and minds are so full of our own thoughts and worries that
we don’t really let the words of the Gospels flow through us and change
us. God’ wants this experience we share
each Sunday – this time together – to so
touch our hearts that we are changed by it; recreated in some small way.
Let’s listen again and this time try to hear it and let
it deeply impact our hearts:
"You shall love the Lord,
your God, with all your heart ...
withall ... your soul ... ... and withall... your mind.”
“You shall love
your neighbor as you love your very self.
Is this your experience ... ?
Do you really love the Lord God that way?
Does your love for Him consume all of you ... heart ... mind ... and ... soul?
To love God that way, like any loving relationship, requires
spending time with Him – quality time. If you never give God any time, can you really love him
Wouldn't it be transformative if we really lived this
commandment? To "love the Lord with all our heart, soul and
mind. And, love our neighbor as we love
Jesus placed love of neighbor alongside love of God for a
reason, because he knows that they are completely linked. God can feel so distant that he’s hard to
love that is why he gave us each other.
There is a story about a young woman who was in great
distress because she had lost a sense of God in her life. She complained to her elderly grandmother,
“Why doesn't God let me feel His presence? If only I could feel Him and know
that He has touched me.” Her grandmother
said, “Pray to God, right now. Close
your eyes and pray to him. Ask Him to
put out his hand and touch you.” The
girl closed her eyes and prayed fervently.
Then she felt a hand on her hand.
“He touched me. He touched me,”
she cried out. Then she said, “You know,
his hand felt just like your hand.” “Of
course it was my hand,” her grandmother said.
“That’s how God works. He takes
the hand that is nearest and uses that.”
Loving God and loving our neighbors are completely
connected. That’s why Jesus answered the
man’s question, that day, the way he did. Jesus knows the best way to connect to
God, to love God, is to love someone. And the
truth is we cannot truly love our neighbor apart from loving God. We cannot separate the two. We show our love for God, by the way we love
our neighbor. "What you did for the least of mine you did for me," God said. And
in the end that’s all that really matters.
Any of us who have had the privilege to be at the bedside
of someone in their final moments, when they stand on the edge of eternity, know
that you will never hear someone say, “Bring me my diplomas! I want to look at
them one more time. Show me my awards, my medals, that gold watch I was
given.” When life on earth is ending people
don’t surround themselves with objects.
What we want around us is people – people we love – and have
relationships with. In our final moments we all realize that relationships are what
life is all about. Love is all that matters in the end.
This is what Jesus is really saying to us today. He is
saying: Do you know that nothing you do in this life will
ever matter unless it is about loving God, and loving the people he has
Today let’s all allow these words about love sink in
Let them go – through us – and change us, recreate us.
And then Jesus can heal us. And, use us to heal others.
No one wants to suffer.
But ... we must learn that suffering is part of the journey of growth.
It is inevitable in the human state. All humans suffer. So the question becomes:
What do you do with suffering?
No one is happy for the suffering - who would be, who could be?
But ... that does not mean that there are no benefits - no blessings.
What good can come from suffering? ... you ask. "Awareness"
The end of the world for a caterpillar is ... a butterfly.
Suffering can - if we allow it to - helps us to shed the unimportant.
We can become more aware of what is really important in life.
It focuses us on what truly matters.
The blessing in suffering is that you are happy
for for the new level of intimacy that the suffering brought you to.
Often you only know this - after the fact.
You usually can't see it in the suffering.
Perhaps days or weeks or even years later, one day you realize -
"God is so real to me now. How did I get here?"
Suffering's greatest gift might be that you learn to live in the present moment.
You become fully alive in the moment.
All the expectations of the world drop away when we suffer. You stop caring about an other's approval. Suffering can allow one to no longer march to the drums of society, but rather become someone who dances to the tune of the music that springs up from within.
When you are ready to lose your life ... you live it.
An Italian poet once said:
"We live in a flash of light; evening comes and it is night forever."
Our earthly life is only a flash and it is so easy to waste it.
Suffering can make you desire not to waste a moment ... and that is a blessing!
They asked Jesus. Tell us what is your opinion: Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not?" Knowing their malice, Jesus said, "Why are you testing me, you hypocrites? Show me the coin that pays the census tax." Then they handed him the Roman coin. He said to them, "Whose image is this and whose inscription?" They replied, "Caesar's." At that he said to them, "Then repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." Matthew 22:17-22
"Show me the coin." In this reading, Jesus brilliantly dodges another trap set for him. Taking a tiny little coin with Caesar’s image on it Jesus said: “give to Caesar what his Caesar’s;” and then he drops a bomb shell on his adversaries by saying: and give “to God what belongs to God." Yes, of course, we must do our civic duty and pay our taxes, but the more important question is: What are we giving God? Few of us shirk our civic duty; all of us pay our taxes. But, many of us are shortchanging God. And, the currency that matters to God is love. What God values from us is love of neighbor. What He values most is compassion. Jesus was saying that day that we have a dual citizenship. We are citizens of two worlds, citizens of this world and citizens of heaven. We too must give to Caesar – the government – what is their due; and God what is His.
Are you giving to God what is God’s?
What about our lives belongs to God?
So what do you owe him?
Don't be cheap! That is what we are called to contemplate this week in our reading.