In an article I recently read, author Fr. Paul Scalia – son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia – spoke about the temptation to domesticate the Gospel … to smooth out the rough edges, sanitize the language and bring it down to a one-dimensional aspect – leaving it purely in the earthly realm. In other words, we prefer a gospel that is comfortable, that falls more easily on our ears and does not challenge. A perfect example is the Gospel today – the two-fold commandment to love God and Neighbor is understood more as an exhortation to be kind.
In the ancient world, to believe in God, to put Him above all else was considered a normal way of being and that looking after one’s neighbor was secondary. Today, many people have given up on faith and religion in general. But nearly everyone will agree that the idea of tolerance, diversity, kindness, paying it forward and so on… these are the things we can sink our teeth into… these are the “virtues” of the secular world. But here, Jesus puts this two-fold commandment of love into one … Essentially, He is saying – if I don’t love the God in whose image my neighbor is created, how long and how deeply can I really, truly love my neighbor? How long and how deeply can I really love God?
To Fr. Paul’s point in his article – we want the gospel to make our lives better, we want it comfortable and palatable … we don’t like being challenged, we don’t like change … we like being comfortable. But there is nothing comfortable about this Gospel at all… What does it look like, what does it mean to love the Lord with all our heart, mind soul and strength? I think Our Lord reminds us that every interaction, every decision, every choice has an eternal significance – our thoughts, words and deeds have meaning in relation to eternal life. Hence our engagement in Mass, prayer, confession all help to strengthen us in faith, in love for God in order that we might be able to give to others that which we receive here in this place… Its not just about being kind … its about being holy.
So – what does loving God and neighbor look like … it looks like this, look at us here together … We live our lives and our faith united in under that common bond of our love for God … There is a significance to our just being here together, with our attention on the Lord. Symbolically speaking, we already express a common love and fellowship with one another just by being here … and in this place, together, as a community of faith, we receive from God who is the source of all love that we may go out from this place and give that love to others… to those who know and do not know, to those we love and do not love … how live that which we receive from here is the expression, the manifestation of the direction of our souls … is evident of our movement toward eternal life in such a way that shows others the way as well…