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Friday, 2 November 2012

Reflection/Homily: Thirty First (31st) Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B (November 4 2012)

Theme: The Dimensions of Christian Love
My first day in the seminary was characterized with much fear and anxiety. This was as a result of the first orientation conference where the rector read out a litany of seminary rules and regulations. They were too much to be remembered let alone to be obeyed. He further told us that the punishment for any breach of the least rule or regulation was expulsion. With that we became more afraid. After the conference, we were discussing the rules among ourselves and our basic interest was to find a rule that could summarize all other rules and regulations. What we needed was only a guiding rule (the first or most important rule) that would make it easier for us to be conscious of and obey the entire rule. At last, we were told that the summary and greatest of the entire seminary rules was to do the right thing at the right time. 

Perhaps, our anxiety was similar to that of the Scribes and Pharisees in today’s gospel (Mark 12:28-34). They were conversant with the Laws of Moses and knew there were 613 Mosaic laws in all. All they wanted was a summary of the laws, a guiding principle that would enable them keep all of them. They may have argued it severally among themselves before the Scribe mentioned in the gospel reading decided to ask Jesus about it.

As a response, Jesus went straight to quote the great Shema, which was a traditional Jewish prayer contained in the first reading (Deuteronomy 6:2-6). According to him, the greatest or first of the commandments is love and this love has two dimensions: love of God and love of neighbour. In His words: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. This means that with all your heart, you consider God as a friend and father, with all your soul, you long for Him, with all your mind, you search for the truth of His Word and with all your strength you spend your time doing good. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself.

Beloved friends, most often as Christians, we presume we are keeping the commandments when we fulfill our Church obligations such as praying, paying our tithes, attending fellowships, etc without reaching out to our neighbours in need. On the contrary, some of us are philanthropists yet have no fear of God or sense of sin in them. Jesus today teaches us how to balance our spirituality. Our spirituality simply means our response to God love towards us and this response of love should be reciprocated in two dimensions: love of God (vertical) and love of neighbour (horizontal).

This love is God’s own initiative and we respond by multiplying it. This great commandment is more of a creed than a law. It begins with “Listen, Israel…” This means that the first proof of love is to listen and in listening, we believe what is said. What it implies is that to prove that we love God, we must listen to Him and to love our neighbour, we must also listen to them. We must listen to the voice of God calling us to do good and avoid evil. We must also listen to the voice of those around us crying for help, for justice, for attention, for consolation, etc. We should make ourselves suitable to administer to the needs of those around us.

For this reason, the second reading (Hebrews 7:23-28) presents to us the picture of Jesus the high priest who in proving His love for God and man made Himself suitable by being holy, innocent and uncontaminated, beyond the influence of sinners. He performed one single and perfect sacrifice by offering Himself to teach us that love demands sacrifice. 

Therefore, beloved friends, despite the several commandments, rules and regulations guiding us as Christians, do not be afraid that you can ever meet up with them. Jesus has given us a guide; love God and love your neighbour. If you sincerely love God, you will avoid sin and if you sincerely love your neighbour, you will maintain a moral and just world. God loves you.                                                                                     

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