Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time ~ 25 October 2020
The gospel highlights the two commandments which Jesus describes as the greatest: Love of God and love of neighbour. No matter how often we hear these words we are struck by the demands they place upon us. Jesus brings together the love of God and the love of neighbour as something inseparable like two sides of the one coin. Love of God whom we cannot see, is false if it is not complemented by the love of the people whom we rub shoulders with every day on the street where we live. Our neighbour is not thrown in as an afterthought because it is through people around us that God makes contact with us on a daily basis. Scripture keeps constantly hammering home the message that ‘anyone who says they love God and hate their neighbour is a liar.’ (1 John 4:20-21). We cannot call ourselves Christian and continue crucifying our neighbour.
Loving our neighbour as ourselves is a necessary element in giving our hearts and minds to God and that is where the challenge lies. It is wonderful in theory but difficult to put into practice. To love one’s neighbour can be challenging especially when the people next door are annoyingly inquisitive and their children downright bad mannered, not to mention the work mate who really gets on our nerves. To show love in such circumstance is dreadfully difficult and demands great effort and yet, more often than not, we meet God in such an encounter. Make no mistake, our religion becomes an escape and our holiness an illusion if we pray daily, go to church on Sundays, yet cut ourselves off from the people who are worshipping under the same roof as ourselves. God cares about how we treat others. Everyone is made in God’s image and likeness.
Today’s Gospel invites us to take a good look at those dark nooks and crannies of our lives which are sealed off from God. To profess that we love God while remaining indifferent to the plight of others is a contradiction. We all want love to be a thorn-less rose, smooth and velvet to the touch but if we are following Christ we will find that it involves sacrifice and the shadow of the cross. Love is, waiting upon the aged, nursing the sick, patching up quarrels and taking time to listen to the broken hearted. Very few expect to discover love in weakness, powerlessness and suffering and yet that is the heart of Christ’s message to the world. From his birth in a stable as one who was homeless, to his death on the cross as a common criminal, Jesus always identified with the spiritually, physically and materially poor of this world. This gospel is not an ideal to be admired but a way of life to be lived if we are to walk humbly with God. There is an old saying that the night is over and the day has begun when we recognise complete strangers as our brothers and sisters.
Pa Peter Tipene ~ Dean
The Cathedral of St Patrick & St Joseph