Fr Billy Swan
Dear friends. The Gospel text this Sunday is one that speaks for itself without need for much commentary. It is as if Jesus is taking us back to the fundamentals of what our faith is about, namely love of God and love of neighbour. The timing of this message is spot on too for we live in a time of global conflict as we see in places like Ukraine and the Middle East.
Loving God and our neighbour moves us away from ourselves into a new space, bringing us closer to those who are suffering like us and perhaps more than us. The culture of our time places great emphasis on the self and the individual. My choice, my life, my freedom, my happiness. The problem with this is that we can end up in a bubble and in a comfort zone far from people who are in dire need but whose needs we are blind to. But here is a real opportunity to come out from that. This is a moment when barriers between people can be removed as we think of who we might reach out to, talk to or help today. And by living this way, Jesus promises us that we will become happy, joyful and see our own circumstances with a clearer perspective. This is the paradox he talked about when he said: ‘the one who loses their life for my sake will find it and the one who preserves his/her life will lose it’. Only by giving myself away in love will I receive what I truly desire.
A word on the need to love both God and neighbour as Jesus asks and as he himself showed us. If we love our neighbour but not God then our charity might not last or translate into a life of commitment. If we love God without our neighbour then we risk drifting away into a life that is disconnected to the problems of the real world and where prayer becomes an exercise in consoling ourselves. Again, Jesus shows us the way and gives us his Spirit to get the balance right.
Jesus was a man of prayer. He loved his Father and knew his Father loved him. He loved people intensely, especially those that were un-lovable, lost and diseased and as the first reading mentions, the orphan, the stranger and the widow – the most vulnerable and marginalized at the time. He loved these people because these were the people his Father loved too.
With his cross we see a love that went to the depths and to the heights – a love and a charity for people that was never seen before or since. This was the life of Jesus Christ and this is the life that we have been gifted with from our baptism. Because of that gift, we don’t just imitate his love but share in the same love with him.
And so friends, loving God does not lead us away from people but draws us closer to them. His love moves us out of ourselves to connect with others, especially at this time where peace is so needed. May the beautiful words of today’s psalm be in our hearts this week: ‘I love you Lord my strength’. And may we communicate that strength by loving others in his name.