Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity
October 26, 2014
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” These words of our Savior, which we have just heard, are repeated at this parish everyday at every Anglican Use Mass. It is very good for us to hear these words at every Mass so that we are constantly reminded of our need to put God first by loving Him above all things; but, when something becomes so familiar to us we can develop a tendency to ignore its true meaning. What does it mean to love God with your entire being? This is a very serious question to which we must have the correct answer so that we can rightly order our lives toward God. But in addition, without the right understanding for the love of God we will not know how to keep the second of our Lord’s commands: to love our neighbor as ourselves. So, what does it mean to love God with all your heart, soul and mind? Before looking for the answer I want to address modern man’s take on this question.
In our secular and pluralistic society, modern man asks a similar but altogether different question. Instead of asking how to rightly love God, modern society demands an answer to the question “Why should we love God, if there is one? What has He ever done for us?” And even we as Catholics, and who claim to love God, don’t always prove it. Too often in our speech we say we love God, but in our actions towards Him we show a profound indifference. We let our lives get in the way of loving God by saying to ourselves – I just don’t have time go to Mass this Sunday, or to pray, or go to adoration, or to do some work of mercy. By so doing we functionally become agnostics because through our actions we ask the same question that our modern society constantly asks – why should we love God?
And yet, if we would just stop our restless minds and take a break from the endless tornado of busy-ness that we call our lives, we would see just how pathetic all of our excuses really are. And what better time to do so than right now. You have taken the time to come here today and worship God and to show your love for Him; therefore, clear your mind and turn the gaze of your entire being upon the One you are here to worship and adore.
And now, let us ask the question that our society asks, not flippantly like they do, but earnestly, “why should we love God,” so that having found the answer we can love Him as we ought.
But, in order to answer that question we must first answer another question: how did we get here? In other words, how did we come into existence, where did we come from? The answer, though, is not as simple as saying that we came from our parents. Even though that may be a true statement it is not the right answer because they came from their parents, who came from their parents, who came from their parents, etc. We cannot go back through the generations in an infinite regression because we will never reach a point at which it all began. Even modern science’s answer that it all started with the Big Bang is really no answer at all because from where did it come? There must be a first cause of all things; because, without it, there would be no beginning of anything at all. This Cause is the One we call God.
There are other proofs for the existence of God but this one is enough to serve my purpose: that being to show we are not reliant upon ourselves for our existence. We did not create ourselves, in fact, we are not creators at all. Instead, we are contingent creatures that would not exist if God had not created us. In addition, it is only through His continual holding of all creation in existence that we do not slip away into non-existence. It is only through the power of God that we exist and that we continue to exist. And does it not make sense that if God created us then He would also know what is best for us? Wouldn’t it also make sense that because God is love, as revealed to us by His Son, that He would therefore take care of us by giving us what we need?
Taking all of this into consideration we can now see why we should love God. The answer to the world’s question – why should I love God, what has He done for me – is this: everything! There is nothing that you have, nothing about who you are now or who you will become that has not been given to you by God. And that is why you ought to love Him with your entire heart, soul, and mind.
But in addition to knowing why we should love God we also need to know how to love Him. How do we love God with all our heart, soul, and mind? The answer is simple to express but not so simple to do. To love God with your entire being you need only do one thing: become like Christ. Like I said – easy to say but hard to do; but, our loving Creator has not left us without assistance to attain to this lofty goal of becoming like His Son. All those baptized into Christ’s death and Resurrection are members of His Church, which is the universal sacrament of salvation and from which comes those seven definitive, although not exhaustive, sources of God’s grace: the Sacraments of the Catholic Church. Through these Sacraments God gives us His grace, grace being the very life of God that He puts within us, which we must have in order to journey to our ultimate goal. Therefore, by receiving the Sacraments and then putting that grace to work to help us follow the teachings of Christ, we will be loving God as we ought to love Him.
But there is one last thing that needs to be considered – the command to love our neighbor as ourself. Why should we obey this commandment? What if our ‘neighbor’ happens to be a terrorist bent on our destruction, or a person that has abused us, or someone that is hateful and vindictive, or perhaps he is just someone that we don’t like for some reason we cannot even explain – do we really have to love all these people as ourselves?
Yes we do and here is the reason. All of us have a desire – a longing – to be happy. And that is because we have all been created by God to be happy with Him for all eternity. Each one of us are created in the image and likeness of God, we all have souls of equal worth, and because of this we are all called to the same destiny – eternal life with God. All people desire that happiness because that desire has been put there by God; but, we will only attain it if we desire that same happiness for our neighbor as we do for ourselves.
And why is this necessary? Because none of us deserves eternal life – we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And yet, even though we are all sinners, Christ died for us all. We are all in need of salvation and therefore, we cannot say that this or that person does not deserve God’s mercy and forgiveness. And yet if we hold on to anger or have a lack of forgiveness in our hearts towards another person that is exactly what we are doing. If God is willing to forgive them, then why aren’t you? After teaching His disciples how to pray our Lord told them, “if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you; but if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” This forgiving of others is integral to a proper love of our neighbor to which Christ calls us today. But, this forgiveness of others is only the necessary first step to loving our neighbor as ourselves. After we have forgiven others we must still show our love for them by desiring what is best for them, which is ultimately salvation but also includes any physical necessities of this life, and then we must do what we can to make sure our neighbor obtains salvation and receives those things they physically need. By so doing we are loving our neighbor as ourself and at the same time demonstrating our love for God. All of this is what our Lord is calling us to do in today’s Gospel.