Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Father Shawn Hughes

November 4, 2018


Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week. Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it: ‘tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time. If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures and/or the Spiritual Life.

God bless you.

Father Shawn

How’s Your  Love Life?  Spiritually speaking

Our First Reading and Gospel features what the ancient Israelites referred to as the shema: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God is Lord alone.” It is a wonderful examination of conscience for each of us this morning? Is God the one Lord of my life? Who or what are his rivals for my attention, for my ultimate concern? Or, to turn the question around: Does absolutely everything in my life belong to God?

A reflection I was reading on this gospel started by asking the question I asked at the beginning of my homily…it really took me aback.  It asked:  “How’s your love life?…spiritually speaking, that is! How’s your love life?

The two great commandments today, don’t ask what do you know about the Lord? or what have you decided about the Lord?…these commandments are asking “Do you love the Lord?”…with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, all your strength… AND… BIG AND… and does your love of the Lord show in your love of self and neighbour?

How can we measure how much we love God? How can we know? We all love God to some extent – otherwise we wouldn’t be here right now.  But how much? How mature is our love for God?

In light of today’s Gospel, I ask you again: how’s your love life?

Many of you will remember growing up and learning the brief prayer called An Act of Love. It gets right to the heart of the matter as to what really counts as love in God’s eyes:

O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbour as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.  Amen.

These three sentences challenge us to think about real love in a way the world around us doesn’t!

We love God because He is all Good.

Because He is all Good he is worthy of all love.

We love our neighbour and ourselves out of love for God.

We forgive all who have injured us…no matter what.

We ask pardon for all whom we have injured.

Jesus made it very clear many times in the Gospels, and in the Lord’s Prayer, that we show our love for Him in how we treat other people, and that He will forgive us as much as we forgive them.

St. Teresa of Avila, the great mystic from sixteenth-century Spain, said about this Gospel:

“We cannot know whether or not we love God, although there are strong indications for recognizing that we do love Him; but we can know whether we love our neighbour. And be certain that the more advanced you see you are in love for your neighbour, the more advanced you will be in the love of God; [and] to repay us for our love of neighbour,  God will in a thousand ways increase the love we have for him.”

Love of neighbour reveals our love of God.

Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta shows the same kind of common sense saying: “We are commanded to love God and our neighbour equally, on the same level. There is no difference. Love for our neighbor must be equal to our love for God. We don’t have to search for opportunities; we have them twenty-four hours a day with those around us. How is it that we do not see and we miss these opportunities?”

There is a strict logic at work here. When you really love someone, you tend to love, as well, what they love. Well, what does God love? He loves everything and everyone that he has made. So, if you want to love God, and you find this move difficult because God seems so distant, love everyone you come across for the sake of God.

When we obey God’s command to love our neighbours, in little things or in big things, we actually increase the intensity of God’s presence in the world – because we reveal his love to others.  Think how much better the world is because Mother Teresa lived in it.  Her love of the poorest of the poor increased the intensity of God’s presence in the world.

We are called to love and live in that way.

God’s idea of love doesn’t come from our feelings, that is to say, from our natural likes and dislikes, but rather from our will in our desire to please God.

This is indeed love of others for God’s sake without thinking about what we might get in return. In addition, we are called to love those who might not seem particularly loveable, as well as our enemies.

When the notion of loving our enemies seems like too tall an order in a world saturated with conflict, consider that, as St. Paul said, Christ died for us to reconcile us to God while we were His enemies (Rom 5:10)…while we were still sinners.   Christ’s love for us on this earth was modeled on humility and selflessness. He was born in a manger and died on a cross in the ultimate act of love!

As our Lord instructed His Apostles the night before His Passion, we are to “love one another, as I have loved you…by this shall all men know that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). He meant for us to love each other…warts and all!  That doesn’t mean we are called to like each other.  We may not want to be in the same room. It means we don’t wish them any harm.  It means we are willing to pray for God’s Blessing upon them and do whatever we can to ensure they receive God’s Blessing.

It is a tall order.

This gospel calls us to look at those we resent or are bitter towards; those who have to get the last word; or have to be right about everything;  those who we envy for their talents, intelligence, skills; those that we covet their success or their possessions.  Jealousy, envy and resentment can take a huge spiritual toll on us.   Healing and love begin by spending time in prayer especially for those who have harmed us or we have harmed.

This week we need to ask ourselves:  How’s my love life?  Spiritually speaking.    Are we showing others Jesus in our lives by our actions?  By how we think about them, By how we act with them? Are we letting Him work through us?

Most of the times what drives us most crazy is each other! God invites us to live in a world of peace.  And he gives us the grace, his strength, in the sacraments to do that.  We need to remind ourselves that all the strength we need to  Love God and love neighbour is given in each of the Sacraments we have received.

The Act of Love prayer points the way to that world. St. Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 13:7), the one you have heard read at many weddings, that love is patient, kind, gentle, unpretentious, not ambitious or self-seeking, and that it doesn’t bear grudges or rejoice in someone else’s misfortunes.

The more we can adopt that approach, with God’s help, the more we can live our lives as an act of love for Him and for each other.

O my God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbour as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and I ask pardon of all whom I have injured.  Amen.