Today, we hear Jesus call us to “love”:
Love God, love our neighbor.
That doesn’t sound so hard, does it?
Yet, they are the hardest commandments of all.
Today, I want to talk about
love of God, love of neighbor,
and the importance
of keeping them together.
St. Paul reminds the people of Thessolonika
that they had to turn from false gods—idols—
to embrace Jesus Christ.
The false gods of St. Paul’s time
are the same as now:
Money, work, sex, pleasure, power.
But all the false idols really come down to one:
Our own selves!
Let me give you one example of how we do that—
it may surprise you:
We do it when we worry.
I mention this because many people
come to me afflicted by worry.
It fills their thoughts and fills their time.
Worry—by definition—is unproductive!
If I see you carrying bags of groceries,
I can worry about it:
“Oh, my—what a heavy load!”
Or, I can come and help you!
Worry is not prayer,
because prayer means entrusting it to God.
Turning it over—trusting Him—
letting God be God.
The sad and funny thing is,
I tell people this.
People who worry keep worrying.
I say this as one who worries too much.
Sometimes I lose sleep.
But I’ve tried to learn
to turn it over to God:
I’ve prayed many times:
“Lord, no use both of us
staying up all night!”
Instead of worry—do something,
No matter how small.
Another way to let God be God,
is to let Him decide
the value of your “small” gifts.
That brings us to the second commandment:
Love of neighbor.
The first reading reminds us our neighbor
includes the stranger and the foreigner.
As you may know, more and more folks
from Central and South America
are finding their way here.
There’s a growing community
of Spanish-speaking folks,
not only in Cincinnati and Dayton,
but here in Shelby and Miami counties.
At Holy Angels, in Sidney,
they have Mass in Spanish.
One of these days,
we may have to have Mass—
La Misa—in Espanol.
Or CCD—or RCIA—in Espanol.
Well, “isn’t the Mass in Sidney enough?”
A lot of the folks we’re talking about are poor—
they don’t have cars!
The Protestant churches are very happy
to reach out to Hispanic Catholics.
Shall we allow Evangelical churches
to do a better job of loving
our own brothers and sisters, than we do?
This is how love becomes concrete.
And it costs something.
¿Puede imaginar una Misa—sola una—
Imagine mi homilia in Espanol—
¿Puede entender usted
lo que digo en este momento?
Who knew what I just said?
Now you know what it’s like
for nuestros hermanos hispanos—
our Hispanic sisters and brothers.
One more thing:
Love of God and love of neighbor:
We have to keep the commandments together.
Because when they are separated,
ugly things happen.
God will not accept love of him,
if there is no love of neighbor.
It is an offensive offering in his sight.
By the same token,
“love of neighbor,” apart from God,
very quickly gets corrupted.
Think about how much evil is done
in the name of lifting up humanity.
Our society is at the point where it says,
“I love you”…as it kills people!
In Europe, and in parts of this country,
old people, and now children,
with disabilities,are being “euthanized”—
that’s a fancy word for kill. Murder.
In this country,
we especially do it through abortion:
Prenatal testing identifies
children with disabilities,
and parents are pressured hard
to get an abortion.
Of all places,
the Washington Post this week
had a column by a mother
of a girl with Down Syndrome.
She says, “I don't know
how many pregnancies are terminated
because of prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome,
but some studies estimate 80 to 90 percent.”
She adds: “I don’t understand…
how we as a society can tacitly write off
a whole group of people as having no value.
I'd like to think that it's time
to put that particular piece of baggage
on the table and talk about it,
but I'm not optimistic.
“People want what they want:
a perfect baby, a perfect life.
To which I say: Good luck. Or maybe, dream on.”
She asked how society can do this?
By disconnecting “love of neighbor”
from love of God.
By making ourselves—our choices—our god.