Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014
Jesus is noted for preaching what we call the Law of Love. In today’s reading, the Pharisees again try to trick Jesus up, and see how much he really knows about Hebrew Scripture. Jesus summarizes Scripture by saying that it can all be boiled down to two rules – love God and love your neighbor as yourself. The Law and the prophets, the two great Biblical areas used by the Pharisees, he says can be hooked to these two central principals of love which are commanded for us to follow.
God does not do anything that doesn’t stem from God’s own holiness. The law of love stems from God’s love and compassion towards us, and we, too, are to be God-like, aiming to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.
The reading from Exodus today was chosen to show the love and compassion of God despite the fact that it talks about his wrath to those who treat widows and orphans badly, but the concepts that God was giving them regarding how to treat their neighbors were, especially for the time period, very advanced and culturally challenging. They are still challenging for us today to follow.
How in America do we treat legal aliens? Do we offer them comfort and jobs and training or do we try to take advantage of them? I have heard of aliens who were doctors in their own country working at service jobs here in restaurants, for example.
How do we treat people who cannot work, who have no families, who have been left bereft because of deaths? Do our social services, which certainly make some attempt to help people in need, meet that need, or do we just complain about the fact that our money is going to people who ‘could work, if they wanted to”?
Do we provide interest free loans to people who are starting out and have nothing? I doubt the banks would be very willing to even look at that.
And yet, there are people, there are societies, there are group like Habitat for Humanity, for example, that do these things and are truly in the Gospel spirit of loving one’s neighbor.
What is our position on all of this? Do we give generously to help the needy or do we somehow think they can take care of themselves or do we let someone else do it. I know that we cannot support all the good things that come in our mailboxes, but can we choose one or two that may be close to our hearts and be very generous to them. Because my own income has been drastically curtailed since retirement, I have had to choose only three of the charities that I have supported in the past, but hopefully I am still doing enough to follow Christ’s mandate.
Paul speaks today to the Thessalonians about being examples for others. He sees that the Thessalonians have followed the examples of Paul and Jesus, and have themselves become examples for all the other Christian communities. Our parish, though small, does a wide variety of things that hopefully open the eyes of the community to our own caring and loving. I hope that others see us as a very giving parish, despite our size, and that this mandate of love of our neighbor grows and becomes even more visible to the communities around us. We don’t do it for our own glory, but we also don’t want to put this light under a basket since it may inspire others, both in the parish and without, to do more.
The law of love has compassion at its base. Compassion means feeling or suffering with others. Unless we have some sense of the needs of our neighbors, the sufferings of our neighbors, we cannot really be compassionate. We can give because that is what we are told to do, but my hope for us today, is that we can be compassionate as God is compassionate, love as God loves, and show that love by treating everyone as we would want to be treated were we in the same situation.
And that is the good news I wish for you to reflect on this thirtieth Sunday, and is the Good News that Christ proclaimed to us today.
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]