Matthew 22: 33-46 October 29, 2023 Rev. Miguel Baguer
As a child I remember feeling very guilty by not obeying to the first commandment of my catechism. I really didn’t love God above all things; the four loves of my life were living under one roof: my parents, my paternal grandmother who moved with us when it was her time and our adored Eusebia, my 2 brothers’ and mine nanny, who was like my second mother. To ease my anxiety I may have thought: “too bad god can’t move with us; he could become one of the big five” but that was the mind of a child in motion.
Back then I hadn’t read the first letter of john, chapter 4:
“Love is from god,
whoever does not love,
does not love God,
for god is love”.
So how should this gift of love from God is like?. This love is for all who follow Christ to have; this love is a fruit of the holy spirit; this love is meant to flow from us when we accept his love, his forgiveness and god’s will in our lives. Then, when Jesus proclaims his most important commandment, we ask ourselves: what is to love with one’s heart, soul and mind?
Let’s Start With Loving With All Your Heart
Heart is the way we love. Scripture says “where your treasure is, there is your heart”. So, what are your treasures?. They are the things that fill up your heart with satisfaction, worry, concern and joy. They are your first priority, your interest, the center of your energy and attention.
Now, honestly, how could we displace love for worldly things, which has always been on top of our life list? Where and how can one’s heart turn in a different direction? How could it turn 360 degrees? Well, here’s a hint: suppose there may be a time when you may think: I don’t want to do this or that good deed today, I feel weak and tired, turned off, but then, just say:….”God, give me the energy to do it, or push the decision on me to get to that hospital visit, or go to that nursing home or to make that phone call to a friend who I know needs me”. It is a small prayer, but it results in love for God and for a neighbor as well.
As we grow in love for one of the two (God or neighbor) we grow automatically on the love for the other, with God providing us with the resources to be a good companion for loneliness, pain or whatever the circumstances may be.
Love With Your Soul
The soul or the psyche, or the spirit are difficult to define. It is our core, that intangible essence of the human being. The soul represents the area of emotions. So, submitting our emotional life to God might be a way with loving him with our soul.
At times we are creatures full of contradictions: we say we like to be happy, to be content, to be forgiving. We like peace. But sometimes emotions like resentment, anger and self-pity can feel good as well, in a strange way. Or at least, they can give us some kind of negative energy. And the more we nurture these negative feelings, the more we justify ourselves by believing “that’s just the way we are…. can’t change that”. We may feel so hurt by a family member, neighbor, co-worker or fellow church member that we cannot find the motivation to love them. So, what can we do? The answer is going back to square one, love god with all your heart ….and pray, pray, pray!
In obedience to him, we begin to pardon the neighbor who has offended us when we recite the lord’s prayer. We begin to treat them kindly; with time, our soul and emotional life can be made right, not only with God but with our neighbor as well.
Love God With Our Minds
The mind includes our intellectual capacity, our attitudes, our thoughts, our opinion; the mind is where we weigh our life on a scale. The mind is not faith, but it seeks to grab our faith with understanding. If we love God with all of our minds, we don’t see the world around us with the eyes of the local culture or with the eyes of national politics: we see the world with the eyes of God.
And Let’s Not Forget Our Neighbor
Ah, the neighbor! That one who stands with us in this planet, out there or close by, regardless the class or race, intelligence or beauty, religion or sexuality.
We are all neighbors to one another.so what does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? We can start by asking ourselves: do we want for us to have enough food and shelter to survive, or for us and the human race?. Do we want medical care just for us or for everybody else? Do we want an education for our family members or to have it given to people in the slums as well?
What about feeding the hungry, supporting the local social programs and the shelters for those evicted from their own families, house or their jobs? To live and act upon this commandment is tough. To love our neighbors as ourselves, involves at times, to open our wallets, and being involved in supporting our church’s outreach programs to those worthy causes. And (very important) to stop being judgmental.
But the secret is to want to live the commandments, no matter how poorly we actually do it. The idea is to be followers of God whether we are conscious of it or not: when I recently asked a young physical therapist at our local rehab gym what part of its science attracted him most; he replied: “I loved the idea that I can provide a better quality of life to those I work with”. He didn’t focus on the physiological aimed treatments, but on its humanitarian approach.
Today we heard a portion of St. Paul ‘s letter to the Thessalonians. If you put his letters in chronological order, you will find he became, with time, much more aware of his own heart, soul mind and, of course, his sins. And as years went by, Paul became more and more amazed at the grace of God toward him.
We too will feel this grace upon ourselves when we stretch beyond our comfort zone and experiment with this new “love language.” Like Paul we can parallel the nature of Christ, the way Christ’s life showed us he was like, against our human nature, that is, the way our life makes us to be (the way we are) and do what we do.
We can follow the steps of Jesus and discard that unfortunate ingrained part of ourselves that tends to take us just towards what feels safe. And in doing so, like Paul, we will show God our love
With all our heart,
With all our soul and
With all our mind.