October 29 2017-Homily Aid Featured by the Catholic Health Association of the United States by Bishop Mark J. Seitz
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: October 29, 2017
“THE MEANING OF LOVE”
"Love" – it's a word much bandied about in our world, but I think we would all agree, it is little understood. I don't propose to come to you with nice, neat, pre-packaged
answers. Love ultimately is a mystery as big as life. But I would like to reflect with you on its meaning for a few moments and see if we might point ourselves toward the reality. I would like to reflect with you upon what love is and what it is not. And I would like to suggest a way that each of us can learn to be great lovers.
Let's begin with our via negativa. Recently on an evening news program a 28-year-old death row inmate was interviewed. He had received his sentence for the brutal molestation and slaying of a number of young boys. The interviewer asked him a question which often enters our minds when we ponder how someone could commit such a horrible crime: "Did you ever think about what your victim was
experiencing?" His answer was, "No, whenever a thought like that entered my mind, I dismissed it and went back to thinking about what I was getting out of it."
Leave this example aside for a minute if you can and let's attempt our via positiva. This one you have to supply for yourselves. Have you ever fallen in love?... I mean head over heels crazy for someone? I guess that's kind of a personal question. ... you don't have to raise your hand. I imagine most of us have experienced a love something like that.
Interesting, isn't it. When we are asked a question like that most of us are thinking of relationships with people of the opposite sex in particular. Not that there is anything in the least wrong with this kind of love. On the contrary, it is when we first fall in love that I think we begin to discover what love really means. Love ceases to be just a word and becomes one of the most compelling, warm, wonderful experiences in our lives. When in love, the world itself looks different. It becomes a place of beauty and hope. We have a reason for being.
It is perhaps this experience of love that allows us to begin to better understand the
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meaning of love as it applies to other relationships: The love parents have for a child, the love of friendship, the love of neighbor, the love of God!
How else could we begin to understand the kind of love Jesus speaks of when he gives the lawyer what he calls the first commandment? We are to love God with all that we are; with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind. Surely Jesus means this as more than mere high-sounding words that could be rattled off by rote.
What does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul and mind? Well, I think it must be the opposite of the attitude expressed by the man on death row. When thoughts of the other and the other's experience entered his mind, he quickly went back to a focus upon himself and his depraved wants and desires.
The love of God has much in common with our experience of romantic love. He or she is always on our mind, either very consciously or very close to the surface. No one is as beautiful or handsome as they are. We think of all they do for us, how much they
care. Our one desire is to be with them. Nothing could be too difficult to bear as long as they are near.
If this is true of the love of two people, how much more should it be true of the love of God? He is the greatest Lover ... the one who loved us into being ... who cares for us at every moment. God is beauty in itself. With God there is nothing to fear in life, without God we are nothing.
Doesn't God deserve to be loved as completely, as really, as passionately as any human person? This is what the first commandment is all about.
And the second commandment, the Lord tells us, is like the first -- love your neighbor as yourself. Even though in practice we first learn the meaning of love by experience of the love of another human being, true love of God and people is inseparable. The love of people should lead us to love Him who made them. The love of God should lead us to love even more those whom God creates and loves.
Would you agree that if we could identify the greatest lover we could learn from that person a great deal about love? The greatest lover the world has ever known, of course, is Jesus Christ. As the Second Person of the Trinity he loved us into being. He loved us when we were nothing. He loved us when we had rejected His love by sin. As Paul tells us, "He loved us while we were yet sinners." (Rom. 5: 8)
One way in which God’s love is greater than ours is that it is completely
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disinterested. ‘Disinterested’ does not mean one is not interested, or doesn’t care. It refers to an action taken without any self-interest. God doesn't love "because ... " God loves “despite ” God loves because of who He is and who we are. God’s love is not based upon anything we will do for Him. True love is the giving of oneself for the other without looking for anything in return.
If we want to learn to be a great lover like Jesus we will need to practice loving like Him. The scripture we have heard for today even suggests an excellent object for such a disinterested love, the migrant. “Thus says the LORD: “You shall not molest or
oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” (Ex. 22: 20)
In the migrant or refugee we find those we would have a natural tendency to fear because they are different. They don’t belong to our ‘tribe’, our group. If our heart can open in love to the migrant, if we can care for them although we do not know them, if we can feel their pain and isolation as though it were our own, if we can recognize in their faces the face of Christ, perhaps we will be on the way to becoming lovers after the heart of Christ.
There's no way around it. We Christians are called to be great lovers! Very often life, with all of its hurts and its many distractions, can make us lose sight of this
truth. Sometimes itÕs not easy to love. The passionate love Christ had for his Father, his compassionate love for us, led him to his Passion and his Cross. Love calls us to so desire to share the life of the other that we long to be with them, to give of ourselves for them, not only in their good times, but in their pain as well. Such is Christ's example of love!
As we celebrate this Eucharist, the renewal of His love among us, let's fall in love with Jesus once more.
¿Seré yo o parece últimamente como que este mundo nuestro es mucho menos estable de lo que solía ser? Mire hacia donde usted quiera, verá los signos del deterioro (o el colapso) de las cosas que pensábamos que eran relativamente estables. En el mundo natural estamos viendo tormentas, cuyo poder nunca habíamos sido testigos. Conocemos bien sus nombres: "Harvey", "Irma", "María". Ahora forman parte de nuestro vocabulario.
No nombramos a los terremotos, pero hemos experimentado muchos de ellos últimamente, especialmente en nuestro vecino país al sur, México. Incluso tuve una experiencia relativamente pequeña cuando estuve en El Salvador para una reunión el verano pasado.
En el ámbito de las relaciones internacionales, ¿ha habido un momento en la mayor parte de nuestras vidas en que sentíamos esto cerca de una guerra que tiene el potencial de volverse nuclear con naciones traviesas como lo son Corea del Norte e Irán? Los grupos terroristas internacionales que abusan del buen nombre del Islam parecen cada vez más sedientos de sangre de los inocentes para ofrecer como sacrificio a su insaciable deseo de venganza.
Cerca de casa estamos viendo amenazas a la dignidad de la vida humana en cada etapa. A pesar de que tenemos al gobierno federal y a la mayoría de los gobiernos estatales en manos del partido que apoya la protección de la vida de los no nacidos, los abortos continúan a ritmo acelerado. Mientras tanto, las nuevas amenazas parecen surgir casi diariamente. Con los avances de la biología molecular del ADN, del cual podemos ver que avanza rápidamente, vemos el potencial para las tecnologías de salvar vidas, pero también vemos el potencial, incluso en la realidad, de un gran abuso de este nuevo poder, ya que los científicos están imprudentemente experimentando con embriones humanos que están recibiendo ADN de otros animales.
Las instituciones que forman la estructura básica de la sociedad, como lo es la familia con su vínculo primordial de la relación duradera, fiel y complementaria de un hombre y una mujer, están bajo gran amenaza. Los niños están siendo privados de su derecho a relaciones familiares positivas y estables y los efectos de esta privación pueden verse muy ampliamente a nuestro alrededor.
Por supuesto que podría seguir con esta aterradora y deprimente lista sobre los últimos desarrollos, pero creo que mi punto es claro. Tengo noticias para usted: ¡el cielo se está cayendo! SI, ¡SE ESTA CAYENDO! Pero usted no tiene que agacharse o esquivar nada. La verdad es que el cielo siempre se ha estado cayendo. Ese es el estado constante de este mundo caído, roto y en decadencia. El fin del mundo está cerca y las señales son bastante obvias, especialmente últimamente. Jesús nos advirtió que sería así: "Oirás de guerras e informes de guerras... Naciones se levantarán contra naciones y reino contra reino; habrá hambrunas y terremotos de un lugar a otro. Todos estos son el comienzo de los dolores de parto." (Mateo 24, 4-8)
En medio de todo esto, Jesús se levanta ante nosotros sobre el agua sacudida por la tormenta y habla con una voz que atraviesa el viento y la lluvia. Él dice: "No tengáis miedo. Yo estoy con vosotros. "(Isaías 43,5")... Tengan valor. He conquistado al mundo. "(Juan 16, 33)
Ya sea que los acontecimientos que parecen acompañar al fin del mundo sea que estos se despliegan en su vida personal o en una escala mucho más grande, poco importa. Su respuesta es la misma. Y puesto que Él es el Señor del Universo y El que te ama íntimamente al mismo tiempo, no hay problema demasiado grande o demasiado pequeño. Él está a nuestro lado con su graciosa invitación: "Venid a mí todos los que estáis cansados y halláis la vida agobiante y os refrescaré" (Mateo 11,25).
Sí, el cielo SI se está cayendo, pero el que hizo el cielo y el que nos llamó a la vida es nuestro Redentor, nuestro Salvador. "¿De quién debo (debemos) temer?" (Salmo 27, 1)
Is it just me or does it seem lately like this world of ours is a lot less stable than it used to be? Look wherever you like, you will see the signs of the deterioration (or the collapse) of things we had thought were relatively stable. In the natural world we are seeing storms, the power of which had never been witnessed. We know their names well: “Harvey”, “Irma”, “Maria”. They are now part of our vocabulary.
We don’t name earthquakes but we have experienced plenty of them lately, especially in our neighbor to the south, Mexico. I even experienced a relatively small one when I was in El Salvador for a meeting this past summer.
In the area of international relations has there been a time in most of our lives when we felt this close to a war that has the potential to go nuclear with rogue nations like North Korea and Iran? International terrorist groups who abuse the good name of Islam seem ever more athirst for the blood of the innocent as a sacrifice to their unquenchable desire for vengeance.
Closer to home we are seeing threats to the dignity of human life at every stage. Even though we have the federal government and most state governments in the hands of the Party that supports the protection of the life of the unborn, abortions continue apace. Meanwhile new threats seem to be arising almost daily. With advances in splicing DNA rapidly moving forward we see the potential for life-saving technologies, but we also see the potential, even the reality, of great abuse of this new power as scientists are recklessly experimenting with human embryos which are receiving DNA from other animals.
Institutions that form the basic structure of society such as the family with its primary bond of the life-long, faithful, complementary relationship of a man and a woman is under great threat. Children are being deprived of their right to stable, affirming family relationships and the effects of this deprivation can be seen all around us.
Of course I could go on with this frightening, depressing list of developments, but I think my point is clear. I have news for you: the sky IS falling! Yes, it IS FALLING! But don’t feel you need to duck. The truth is that the sky has always been falling. That is the constant state of this fallen, broken, decaying world of ours. The end of the world is near and the signs are pretty obvious, especially of late. Jesus warned us that it would be thus: “You will hear of wars and reports of wars;…Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be famines and earthquakes from place to place. All these are the beginning of the labor pains.” (Matt. 24: 4-8)
In the midst of this all Jesus stands upon the storm-tossed water before us and speaks in a voice that pierces through wind and rain. He says, “Do not be afraid. I am with you.” (Is. 43: 5) “…Take courage. I have conquered the world.”(John 16: 33)
Whether the events that seem to usher in the end of the world are unfolding in your personal life or on a larger scale, it matters little. His answer is the same. And since he is the Lord of the Universe and the One who loves you intimately at the same time there is no problem too large or too small. He is at our side with his gracious invitation, “Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome and I will refresh you.” (Matt. 11: 25)
Yes, the sky IS falling, but he who made the sky and he who called us to life is our Redeemer, our Saviour. “Of whom should I [we] be afraid?” (Ps. 27: 1)
As a courtesy I sent a copy of my Pastoral Letter, “Sorrow and Mourning Flee Away” to Pope Francis along with a cover letter in which I thanked him for his witness on the plight of migrants in our world today. I wrote him: “Su compasión hacia los inmigrantes y los refugiados ha incitado la mía propia y nos ha fortalecido a todos para servir mejor a aquellos que han venido a vivir aquí y los miles que están simplemente de paso.”
I received a response from the Vatican Secretary of State’s office. In a very gracious letter on behalf of the Holy Father his representative wrote, “His Holiness prays that the evangelical concern shown by your local Church for migrants and their families will contribute to a greater awareness of their situation and a just and conscientious response on the part of the larger community. Commending you, the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the Diocese to the loving intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas, he cordially imparts his Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of wisdom, strength and peace in the Lord.”
Since this part of the letter is addressed to the clergy and laity of the Diocese I wanted to share Our Holy Father’s prayerful and affirming words with all of you. May God grant us the Spirit’s wisdom and the strength to stand in union with Pope Francis and with the Church throughout the world as witnesses to God’s love for all those who suffer the plight of the migrant and refugee.
Most Reverend Mark J. Seitz, DD
Bishop of El Paso
Most Rev. Mark J. Seitz