30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)


30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – on the Gospel


Exodus 22:21-27

1 Thessalonians 1:5-10

Matthew 22:34-40

Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Love in Three Dimensions

 There is an immortal poem written by Englishman Leigh Hunt about a man called Abou Ben Adhem. Abou Ben Adhem woke from his sleep one night and saw in his room an angel writing in a book of gold the names of those who love God. “And is mine one?” inquired Abou. “Nay, not so,” replied the angel. “I pray thee, then, said Abou, “Write me as one who loves his fellow men.” The following night the angel came again and displayed the names of those who love God and Abou Ben Adhem’s name topped the list. This poem makes the point that true love of God and true love of our fellow human beings are like two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist apart from the other. That is what we find in today’s gospel. Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment in the law. The book answer, of course is love of God. But Jesus does not stop there. He goes on to give a more practical answer. He gives the other side of the coin as well, which is love of neighbour. True love of God and true love of neighbour are practically one and the same thing. As Jesus said:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Jesus is here reacting against a one-dimensional understanding of love. For Jesus, true love must express itself in three dimensions. These three dimensions are (a) love of God, (b) love of neighbour, and (c) love of oneself. The first two are positively commanded; the last one is not commanded but presumed to be the basis of all loving. The commandment to love your neighbour as yourself presumes that you love yourself.

Even though Jesus’ answer touched on all three dimensions of love, what is the emphasis, the point Jesus is trying to make? When you ask a question that demands one straightforward answer and the person answers your question and goes on to add another thing that you did not actually ask for, it is most likely that the person is trying to get your attention on the second element of the answer. We saw it last week when Jesus was asked about paying taxes to Caesar. Jesus answered, “Give back to Caesar’s what is Caesar’s,” and then went on to add “and to God what is God’s.” Here the emphasis of Jesus is not on Caesar’s rights, which are apparently obvious, but on God’s rights, which they were ignoring. In the same way, the emphasis on today’s question about the greatest commandment is not on the obvious love of God but on the love of neighbour, which they were trampling upon.

Remember that the persecution of Jesus and his followers was championed by well-meaning religious people motivated by what they believed to be zeal and love for God. The same people asking about the first commandment are the ones trying to entrap and kill Jesus. They are so conscious about love of God. Why then are they so insensitive when it comes to love of neighbour? Saul who later became St Paul is a good example of this kind of skewed religiosity. Jesus prophesied that “an hour is coming when those who kill you will think that by doing so they are offering worship to God” (John 16:2).

The error of the Pharisees is still here with us. There are still many Christians who try to separate love of fellow human beings from love of God. Their commitment to faith does not include commitment to human rights and to justice and peace issues. We will do well to heed the message of Jesus in today’s gospel: that true love of God and true love of neighbour are two sides of the same coin. Any attempt to separate them is a falsification of the message of Christ.“Those who say, ‘I love God,’ and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen” (1 John 4:20).


30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A

 Homily # 1

Exodus 22: 20-26; Matthew 22: 34-40

Love God and Neighbor

There are some things that are important to pass on in families. One important thing my parents taught me was to respect other people irrespective of their income, education, culture, or color. I think that I have done a good job of passing this on to my children. Now it is their turn.

In the gospel, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that there is one commandment that is the greatest: to “love the Lord, your God.” But he also tells them that there is another commandment that “is like it”: “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus wasn’t telling his listeners anything new because these two commandments appeared in the Old Testament hundred of years earlier. Jesus was reminding the Pharisees just how important both commandments are.

The editors of the lectionary selected today’s first reading to put some meat on the commandment of loving our neighbor. In the book of Exodus, God tells us: “You shall not molest of oppress an alien, for you yourselves were once aliens in the land of Egypt.” As always, God’s word in Scriptures apply to us today, just as they did to the people when they were written.

Think of the great migrations of peoples presently being oppressed in various African countries. The region of Dafur in Sudan should be very familiar. 2.5 million people have been forced to migrate to western Sudan where they are now aliens. 3.5 million people are hungry and 400,000 have died so far. And what is your and my responsibility for these people who are now aliens in a foreign “land?” We cannot remain silent. What have we done to lobby our government to help the many widows and orphans who the Lord says are not to be wronged?

The United States is a melting pot for immigrants. All of our families were alien at one time. Even the American Indians who migrated here as the first inhabitants came to a virgin land in which they were alien.

Then came great numbers of immigrants from Europe. My grandfather told me that there were parts of his Michigan town in which he felt alien among settlers from different European countries than his. More recently many people from Vietnam and Mexico migrated the US and I have taught some of the men, along with their wives, while they were studying to become deacons.

Most recently, there are many more immigrants from Mexico who at first feel like aliens in the US. Among the Hispanic community are people also from other South American countries.

God reminds us to “not molest or oppress an alien.” This reminder has been further developed for contemporary times. In 2003, the Catholic bishops of Mexico and the United States published a pastoral letter, titled Strangers No Longer — Together on the Journey of Hope [Ya No Somas Extranjeros — Juntos en el Camino de la Esperanza.]

The bishops remind us that some aspects of the migrant experience are far from the Kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed: many persons who migrate are suffering, and in some cases, tragically dying; human rights are abused; families are kept apart, and racist attitudes remain. We are supposed to see the mysterious presence of the crucified and risen Lord in the person of the migrant.

Catholic Social Teaching defends the right to migrate if migrants can no longer remain in their homeland due to poverty, injustice, religious intolerance, and armed conflicts. This teaching recognizes the right of a sovereign state to control its borders, but also establishes that this right is not absolute. Needs of immigrants must be measured against the needs of the receiving countries.

The first reading also reminds us to not demand interest from our poor neighbors. The practical example to day is not to extract extraordinary interest from the poor, as is done by pay-day-loan companies. We judge ourselves as a community of faith by the way we treat the most vulnerable among us.

I’m sure that attitudes some of us have regarding migration will have to change in the same way it has to change about the death penalty. We must look to the teachings of Jesus and the Church and not just our own initial gut feelings.

To love God first will help us to love our neighbor. And when we love our neighbor well, we will also be able to love God more fully. God loves all of us and we too must strive to love all of our neighbors.

Homily # 2

Several years ago there was a book published by the name, The God I Don’t Believe In.  The title came about when the author heard a remark made by a bishop who was a guest on a TV talk show.  He was participating in a panel discussion about God and religion.  He sat there in silence as each of the other panelists attacked God and pretty much everything He stood for.  Eventually, the host got around to asking the bishop what he thought of the discussion.  He replied by saying, “The God I have heard about here tonight is the God I do not believe in”.

From time immemorial, we have had people who much prefer talking about God and religion, rather than actually and concretely doing something about helping their fellow human beings.  We all know people who say things like, “someone has got to do something about this or that problem” and then they get into their cars and go home to watch a Cardinals game.  These people love to discuss things but, once they actually have to do something…see ya.

The great Christian author, C. S. Lewis, wrote a truly insightful little book called The Great Divorce (describe it in general here).  In one of the chapters, a priest of the Church of England is talking with a ‘heavenly’ person whom he knew while they were alive on Earth.  This priest always felt that the ‘heavenly’ person, whose name is Dick, was too narrow minded.  You see, Dick really believed that Jesus was God and that there really is an actual heaven and hell.

As the conversation progresses, Dick almost begs the priest to stay in heaven and not go back to hell.  All this priest has to do is acknowledge that Jesus is God and that heaven and hell truly exist.  But nooo.  This priest won’t do it because of pride.  You see, he has a paper to give ‘down below’ which will help people understand that Jesus died at too young of an age.  You see, if Jesus had only lived longer, then He would have come around to this priest’s point of view and Jesus would not have died so narrow minded.  These are exactly the types of people Jesus got so angry at—people who have head knowledge (no matter how wrong it might be) but lack a heart.

Jesus also doesn’t care much for hypocrites—you know—where the mouth speaks all kinds of beautiful words about God and heaven, grace and prayer, the power of fasting and novenas, but these words are spoken by people whose hearts harbor bitterness and have no use for people who “aren’t like us”.  Let me illustrate what I’m trying to say with a story.

Elijah the prophet would go around, from time to time, in disguise.  He wanted to find out how people treated each other.  One day, he disguised himself as a beggar, with dirty and smelly clothes.  He went up to a big mansion and noticed that there was a big wedding party going on.  He knocked at the door.  The father of the bride opened the door and saw this filthy man.  He said, “I don’t know what you are doing here, sir, but if you think you’re coming into this wedding, you have a second thought coming.  You are not welcome here” and he slammed the door in his face.

Elijah left.  A little later on, he returned.  But now, he was dressed in all the finery of an elegant lord, even down to a gold-handled walking stick.  Again, he knocked at the door.  And again, the father of the bride opened it but, this time, he welcomed the elegant gentleman with great honor.  Elijah was led to the head table.  With a great flourish, the finest of foods and wines were laid before him.  The people were staring at this elegant lord in all his finery.  All of a sudden, Elijah took the food and began to stuff it into his pockets—every pocket he could find.  Then, he poured the wine all over himself.

Well, the people had never seen such a custom.  Would he please explain it?  Was it a custom from his part of the land?  Elijah answered, “When I came dressed as a beggar, I was thrown out.  But, when I came back dressed in elegant clothes, I was welcomed and given a place of honor.  But, I am the still the same person.  All that has changed is my clothes.  And so, since my clothes were welcomed to the feast, why should they not be fed by the feast”.  The people hung their heads in shame.  When they lifted them up again, Elijah had disappeared.  All that was left was the gold-handled walking stick.

So, where are we in this story?  I’ll bet that many, if not most, of the guests at the wedding banquet knew a lot of nice words about God and His church.  But, what happened when the rubber met the road?  These ‘fine’ people rejected God’s own prophet.  These people may have considered themselves to be the ‘best and the brightest’, but they surely didn’t prove to be the ‘best and the brightest’ servants of God.

God wants action, not just words from us.  He wants this because He has known from all eternity past and into all eternity future that the greatest joy in life, the deepest satisfaction from wealth and the purest use of power comes from finding ways to give it away.

Homily # 3

The readings today point to two of Jesus’ teachings, Love of God and Love of neighbor.

The film, “The Heavenly Kid”, gives us one concept of purgatory. Not only of purgatory , but also the love a father has for his son. A young man is kelled in a car accident. After his death, he is faced with the task of working off the evil he had coommitted during his life. He is given the task of returning to earth to help someone who needs assistance. The person he is assigned to help turns out to be his own teenage son, whom he has fathered out of wedlock. At one point, he learns that his son is scheduled to die in a car accident, just as he had. He is shocked and pleads for his son to be spared, even offering to take his son’s place and die all over again. This offer freed him, because it is the kind of love that overcomes all sin. This man was released to go on to the fullness of eternal llife, and his son was spared the car crash.

Let’s look at the first reading from the Book of Exodus. The second book of the Pentateuch, (the Law). Exodus is from the Greek word meaning departure. God. through Moses, is laying down the Law to the Israelites before they depart from Egypt.

God is telling them what might happen to them if they oppress their neighbors, who might be an alien, a widow or an orphan. If you steal from your neighbor or take his cloak as a pledge on a loan, there will surely be a punishment.

We read in the gospel and hear that Jesus has once again silenced the Sadducees. It seems the Pharisees and Sadducees were always trying to trap him.

A scholar of the law tested him by asking “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?” Jesus pauses for a moment and days to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments”.

What are these readings teaching us? Love God and neighbor. If we love God, we will love our neighbor.

In the gospel, Jesus simply takes the Ten Commandments and summarizes them in a few words, Love of God and love of neighbor.

Look at the first three commandments. You shall not adore other gods. Do not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. You shall keep holy the Sabbath. These relate to our love of God.

Look at the next seven. Honor your father and mother. You shall not kill. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, or anything that belongs to him. These relate to our love of our neighbor.

The Ten Commandments put into a few sentences. The first three, love of God. The next seven, love of neighbor.

How do we love God? By cultivating knowledge of his qualities by which He attracts us; love, beauty, truth, goodness. Look at the Eucharist, which is the wonder of God’s love.

How do we love our neighbor? By looking at their good points and overlooking their bad ones. Another was is to treat them as we would like to be treated.

Jesus is telling us in the Gospel to love God and neighbor in a simple way. Can we do it?

Homily # 4

Point/Focus: Jesus’ teaching and life open us to the wide embrace of God’s kingdom.

I. Tradition, Tradition!

A. If you have seen the musical, Fiddler on the Roof, you know that the main character sings a song which begins with these words.

B. The character is a simple resident of a Jewish village who makes a living delivering milk to his neighbors.

C. He is a good man, one who prays often to God in very familiar ways, a man who loves his wife and his lovely daughters.

D. But times are changing, each daughter progressively marries a man who challenges the father’s tradition, each one stretches him until he can no longer stretch and he must finally turn his back on his youngest daughter.

E. Eventually, however, as you may know, an enemy of the land finally removes the entire village from their traditional land and when neighbors complain that this is where they were to meet the Messiah, the father says, “I guess we’ll have to meet him someone else.

II. Our ancestors in faith were a people of great tradition…

A. The greatest tradition, Tradition with a capital “T”, however, was that of trusting in the God who led them to the Promised Land.

B. Each move, like the first, often meant letting go of something they held dear: their land, their folks, even intermarrying at times with those who held them captive.

C. They would reach the promised land by a circular route through forty years in the desert, forty years of learning that God’s ways were not their ways.

D. They would discover that not only can water come from a rock, but that the youngest son can become the greatest king!

E. They would learn, too, the dangers of traditions that become obstacles to the great Tradition of trust in God and journey to the kingdom. How quickly what was a means becomes an end and an idol!

III. The first reading tells of a warning not to mistreat the alien for they were once aliens as well.

A. As they became more settled, more powerful, it would become easier to name the alien, to forget the widow and the orphan and begin making of possessions an idol, to begin oppressing the poor with high interest rates on loans or taking the neighbor’s cloak as a pledge…it is business, after all!

B. The great Tradition of trusting God and remembering their own history is soon forgotten by smaller traditions that narrowed the definition of neighbor and narrowed God to a national figure.

C. When Jesus is asked about the most important commandment he once again widens the vision that it is all about loving God and loving neighbor with all that we have and are.

D. He not only taught it, but lived it, to the point of eating with sinners, welcoming children, talking to the Samaritan women, and speaking of prostitutes who would enter the kingdom before the righteous.

E. He would warn his disciples that unless someone were obviously against them, they should be considered to be with them.

IV. We Catholics came to this country as aliens, often unwanted, told there were no jobs for us and that we couldn’t run for political office.

A. That seems like ancient history now that we have known a Catholic president and that we occupy many of the seats in congress and in corporations.

B. Arriving in what may seem for some “the promised land,” we may ignore the idols we make of stock market success, interest on loans, division of cities along racial lines and the eagerness to identify certain ethic peoples as “the enemy.”

C. Loving one’s neighbor can become, like it did with the Jews, loving those who are like us, and making of a good and healthy sense of patriotism into a narrow vision of nationalism which continues to divide so much of our world and making it anything but a promised land or the kingdom of God.

D. How sad that a place so easily called the Holy Land has become such an icon of war, hatred and suspicion!

IV. Cutting across all this, we pray, is the image of the Church which strives to be universal, whether in our city or in the world.

A. Paul congratulates the Thessalonians for having turned from idols and becoming models of faith to many in other places.

B. Our Church is multi-cultured, multi-colored and multi-lingual.

C. It strives to call all people “neighbor” and to lead us to love even those we so easily call “enemy.”

D. Such a vision seems impossible and certainly impractical and unattainable.

E. Yet, each time we come to break bread and proclaim the mystery of faith, we know we believe not simply in our many traditions, but in one grand Tradition of trusting God who seeks to announce among us the presence of a kingdom beyond boundaries and boarders.

F. And each time we approach communion and say “Amen,” we agree to keep on keeping on, loving God, loving neighbor.


What matters most?

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:49:00 10/26/2008

AT the start of a counseling session, a couple introduced themselves by saying: “Father, I’m Francis, and this is my wife Betty, my Calvary.” The wife hastened to say: “Yes Father, this is my husband Francis, my purgatory!”

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In today’s Gospel (Mt. 22, 34-40), Jesus sums up all the commandments into two: Love of God, and love of neighbor as oneself. Love is the vision. Love is the mission. Love is the key, the answer to all our problems and questions. With love, we can overcome all our calvaries and purgatories.

* * *

They say that money makes the world go round. Not true. It is love that makes the world go round. Maybe not as fast as the way money makes it, but, slowly and surely. Moreover, there will always be people who are willing to sacrifice, go the extra mile, stand up for their principles, and do what is noble and right. The world is not a hopeless situation, after all. It is not a broken world as long as we do not become cynical about love. When money dwindles, we panic. All the more if love dwindles.

* * *

Fr. Jun Ocampo, SVD, our Filipino missionary assigned in Germany, once wrote that the love Jesus speaks of is not the romantic kind of love that is fleeting and conditional, but a commitment—the steady, disciplined will to seek the good of another. He further notes that the verb “to love” is used 62 times, whereas the noun “love” is used only nine times in the gospels. In other words, more than a feeling or an emotion, love is an action that expresses itself in deeds. More love. Less selfishness. That’s what the world needs now.

* * *

Love is the greatest gift and the greatest responsibility in our lives. If you look back into your life and into your heart, you’d realize that the happiest moments happened because you loved, and the saddest moments happened because you were selfish. The evil one makes us focus on money. God makes us focus on love. What are you looking at? What is your focus in life?

* * *

Is it possible to love God to the max? With all of one’s heart and soul? Not really.

We can love Him above all though. And love Him in spite of all. Yes, we must continue loving, for that is our mission and calling.

* * *

Forget the big things, the great tomorrows when you intend to do your loving. The time and the place to love is in your present reality, in your here and now. Whatever you do, just remember what Mother Teresa once said: “It’s not what you do in life, but how much love you put into it that matters.”

* * *

Last Oct. 24, a group of family and friends surprised me with a celebration marking my 28th ordination anniversary. My sister Ming, who said I was supposed to pray over a sick friend waiting at a nearby fast-food restaurant, picked me up from my office at around 4 p.m. Bringing my sick-call kit, I obeyed (as mama and papa always taught us to obey our elders). And then, surprise! A birthday party for kids—complete with balloons, birthday cake, games, mascots, loot bags—all meant for me, they said, to celebrate the Father’s love for me, His priest child. Come to think of it: Aren’t we all children? Aren’t we all little ones? Aren’t we all loved by the Father?

* * *

In the middle of the celebration I found myself turning misty-eyed. I realized that as a young boy, I’ve always wanted but never had a birthday party where there would be balloons, a cake, ice cream, and gifts from friends and playmates. Life was hard, and my parents could not afford such a party. As I write this column in my room, emotions swell up deep inside me. Not out of self-pity, but out of a sense of gratitude for my parents who loved so much with whatever little they had, and to a God who did not forget a little boy’s secret desire and later fulfilled it when the boy turned 55. What a life! What a God!

* * *

We lost another pillar in the Philippine SVD in the person of Fr. Leonardo Estioko, SVD, who was given the “most outstanding Filipino SVD professor of Philosophy” award just last August. Gifted with a brilliant mind, Father Nards had a way of pushing his students toward excellence and clarity. Yet the doctorate, titles and awards added to his name did not make him “out of touch” with life itself. He loved dogs, and dogs literally loved him! He was very existential in his approach to life, and to death itself. These last two years were painful and difficult as he struggled with lung cancer and colon cancer. He faced death courageously and with dignity. As he promised, he’d die doing his mission to teach, even on a wheelchair till the very end. True to his promise, he finished the first semester of the school year and last Oct. 21, went back to the Father for his much deserved break and eternal rest. Requiescat in pace. Amen.

* * *

All roads lead to the grave this coming weekend for the All Souls’ Day celebration. Let us all be reminded—no matter who we are, or who we think we are—that we will face our Creator in the end. I wonder what we will tell Him then. I wonder what He will tell us then.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, remind me that what matters most is love. Amen.


ANG MAS MAKAPANGYARIHAN PA SA DIYOS: Reflection for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A – October 23, 2011

“Nanay, ano po ba sampung utos ng Diyos?” tanong ng bata sa kanyang ina. “Anak, iyan ang mga utos na ibinigay ng Diyos kay Moises. Ipinapakita ng sampung utos na MAKAPANGYARIHAN ang Diyos!” Sagot ng nanay. “Talaga po? Kung gayon mas makapangyarihan pa pala kayo sa Diyos?” Nakangiting sabi ng bata. “Bakit naman?” nagtatakang tanong ng nanay. “Kasi po… ang dami n’yong utos eh! hehehe!” Totoo nga naman, may mga taong ang pag-iisip ay mas makapangyarihan pa sa Diyos. Ang tinutukoy ko ay ang mga Hudyo na pagkatapos tanggapin ang sampung utos ng Diyos kay Moises ay pinarami ito ng pinarami hanggang umabot sa 613 na kautusan. Kaya’t tama lang marahil ang tanong kay Jesus ng isang dalubhasa sa batas. “Ano po ba ang pinakamahalaga sa kautusan?” Sa dinami-dami ng mga utos na kanilang sinusunod ay marahil naisip nilang bakit hindi na lang sundan ang pinakamahalaga sa kanila. Ang sagot ni Jesus ay di naman talaga bago sa kanila, “Ibigin mo ang ang Diyos ng buo mong puso, kaluluwa at pag-iisip.” Ang mga Hudyo ay likas na maka-Diyos. Ngunit ang idinugtong niya ang tila bago sa kanilang pag-isiip, “Mahalin mo ang iyong kapwa gaya ng pagmamahal mo sa iyong sarili”. Bago sapagkat ito ay inilagay ni Jesus na kasing halaga ng pag-ibig sa Diyos. Ang pagkakamali nila, na marahil ang pagkukulang din natin, ay pinaghihiwalay natin ang dalawang kautusang ito. Marami sa ating mga Kristiyano na ang akala nila sa sarili ay matuwid sila sapagkat lagi silang nagsisimba at nagdarasal. Ngunit kung titingnan mo naman ang pagkilos ay kulang sa pagmamahal sa kapwa. Nariyan na ang mga taong nanlalait, nanlalamang at naninira sa iba pero hawak-hawak ang rosaryo at nagdarasal. Tandaan natin na ang tunay na pagiging maka-Diyos ay dapat maghubog sa atin upang maging tunay na maka-tao! Para saan pa ang pananampalataya sa Diyos na hindi mo nakikita kung ang kapwang nasa tabi mo lang ay hindi mo iginagalang? Para saan pa ang mahahabang panalangin kung nagwawalang bahala ka naman sa mga pangangailangan ng iba? Iisa lang ang kautusan at iyan ay ang batas ng pag-ibig! Kung tunay nating mahal ang Diyos, dapat ay nasasalamin din nito ang pagmamahal sa ating kapwa. Ang mga taong nag-aakalang “mas makapangyarihan sa Diyos” ay ang mga taong ang pagsamba ay nasa salita lamang at walang kasamang gawa! Sila ay nabulagan na ng kanilang pagiging relihiyoso at hindi na makita si Jesus sa mukha ng kanilang kapwang nangangailangan. Tingnan natin ang ating mga sarili, baka naman isa na tayo sa mga taong “mas makapangyarihan pa sa Diyos!”




Dead spots

By: Fr. Jerry M. Orbos SVD
Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:06 pm | Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

On a recent trip to Rome, I found out that there was no cell phone signal at the Catacombs, the underground cemetery of the early Christians. Why? Because there were many dead spots there.

* * *

In today’s gospel (Mt. 22, 34-40), Jesus teaches us the two greatest commandments: Love of God and love of neighbor. Sad to say, for some of us, these two commandments are “dead spots” and, as it were, only love of self is in place and alive.

* * *

Many people know of the piety and devotion of Padre Pio, or St. Pio of San Giovanni Rotondo, in the south of Italy. We had the chance to visit the little church where he would say Mass at 4 a.m. daily, and then hear the pilgrims’ confessions for another 10 to 12 hours. Beside the church stands the big hospital which Padre Pio started. Here was a man whose love for God flowed concretely as his love for others, especially the sick, the poor and suffering.

* * *

In contrast, there are “religious” people who display their piety and closeness to the Church while leading lives contrary to simple gospel values. They can be so devotional, even emotional about God, but so impersonal and uncaring towards the plight of others, specifically the poor, the sick and the suffering.

* * *

Today is Mission Sunday. We mourn the death of Fr. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian missionary who was murdered last October 17 in Arakan, North Cotabato. His only fault was that of proclaiming the gospel about God’s love and justice. We condemn the senseless act. Here was a man who left his home, country and family for the sake of the gospel, braving deprivation, loneliness, persecution, and even death.

* * *

For the past 20 years, I have been living in the SVD Mission House where we welcome and send off our Filipino missionaries working overseas. It is so inspiring to hear their stories and experiences of missionary work, be it in a First World nation like Japan, or a developing country like Angola in Africa. What edifies me is their zeal and sense of mission, not to mention the joyful, humble and creative spirit in each of them.

* * *

Please continue to pray for our 140 Filipino SVD missionaries working in about 40 countries all over the world. Your financial help for their transport, medical needs and provisions will be greatly appreciated. Please contact the SVD Mission Office (telephone 632 721-7457; fax 632 727-1160).

* * *

Check today if you have in your life the ingredients of true faith, which are: Koinonia (communion with God and community); Diakonia (service and apostolate); and Kerygma (proclamation of the gospel by word and example).  In other words, a true Christian is not only prayerful, but must also be helpful and a sharer of the gospel. True prayer must bear fruit in real life, and real life must in turn lead to deeper prayer.

* * *

For us Catholics, communion, service and witnessing are enhanced by Eucharistia (Eucharist) and Maria (Mary). Our Eucharistic and Marian devotion should lead us to true prayer, service and witnessing. These devotions lead us to wholeness and holiness.

* * *

There are a lot of spas today. Did you know that the word “spa” comes from the Latin phrase “salus per aquam,” meaning. “health through water.” There is another meaning we can put forth: “salvatio per amorem,” i.e., salvation through love. Those who love God and neighbor will live a meaningful life, and will inherit eternal life.

* * *

Speaking of neighbors, someone once said that there are only two instances when it doesn’t matter who our neighbors are—when we are born, and when we are buried. That is, in the nursery and in the cemetery. In between these two moments, many of us spend so much effort choosing, avoiding, outdoing or even discriminating against our neighbors.

* * *

Let us say a prayer for our overseas Filipino workers who are in “diaspora” all over for reasons of employment, but who in fact are our anonymous missionaries, spreading gospel values all over the world.

* * *

Next week we will be celebrating All Souls’ Day, to remind us of our mortality, and All Saints’ Day, to remind us of our date with eternity. But there are some people who are already dead even before they stop breathing—those who have lost meaning and purpose in life, people who have given up on hope, and on love. The worst kind of death is not in the physical sense, but that of apathy, hatred, cynicism and hopelessness that engulf one while he or she is still alive.

* * *

Are there “dead spots” in your life? Are there areas in your life that need reviving? Are there values you need to restore or relationships that you need to look into or perhaps give a second chance? For that matter, are there those that you need to leave behind? Whichever the case may be, it should be in the direction that leads towards a more meaningful life and deeper love.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, revive whatever love that has died within me. Amen.



Word Alive

Greatest Commandment


October 21, 2011, 10:55pm

MANILA, Philippines — Which commandment of the law is the greatest: To love God or to love our fellowmen? Both views have their staunch defenders.

The parish council of a certain prosperous suburban community decided to renovate their old church to provide a worthy celebration of the liturgy.

* * *

When the leaders of a socially conscious group working with the poor learned of the big project, they vigorously protested, saying, “It’s a scandal to beautify the surroundings while the poor are suffering from lack of shelter!”

The leaders suggested that the money be used instead to finance social action projects like providing housing for squatters living at the fringes of the parish.

* * *

This incident illustrates two sharply opposed views of Christian faith: One we may call the vertical dimension; the other, horizontal.

Those who hold the vertical view says that our religion has to do with God or with nothing at all. Their concern is the salvation and sanctification of souls. Prayer, meditation, sacraments, in the traditional sense, are the elements of the vertical view. Proponents reason out that when the church talks too much about social justice, it defiles the sanctuary with worldly things, bringing politics to the pulpit.

* * *

Advocates of the horizontal view, on the other hand, say it is a scandal for the church to build magnificent edifices when people nearby lack the basic necessities. They claim that Jesus was the friend of the poor and the downtrodden. When we are judged, they add, God will not ask us how kilometric our prayers and novenas are, but how much we have helped the “least of Christ’s brethren” (Mt 25:40).

Which of these two views is correct? Where does the true Christian stand?

* * *

In this 30th Sunday, Jesus in the gospel says that there’s only one greatest commandment but, like a coin, there are two sides: Love of God and love of one’s neighbor. Authentic discipleship consists not in espousing one extreme view to the exclusion of the other but in the pursuit of both. It is hard to understand, for instance, a Christian who goes to church regularly but at the same time is harsh, unkind, and merciless to his or her workers or involved in immoral practices.

How then can we resolve the tension between the two views?

* * *

Although Christ was totally immersed in His work of preaching, teaching, healing, He never forgot to turn to the Father in prayer. Listen to this passage: “In the morning, long before dawn, He got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there” (Mk 1:33 ff; see also Lk 5:15-16).

In Christ we find the vertical and the horizontal in wonderful harmony.

We, His followers, are called to combine and live the vertical and horizontal dimensions of our faith. That is where Jesus lived. It is also where He died – the CROSS.



See Today’s Readings:  Cycle A

Back to: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

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