By: Rev. Fr. Sylvanus AMEH
Readings: Exodus 22:21-27; Psalm 18; I Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40
I sometimes think we owe gratitude to the Scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees who were constantly trying to put Jesus on the spot with their tricky questions, because in answer to their questions, he always leaves us with very valuable and eternal lessons. One of such instances is what we read about in our gospel text of today. Trying to test Jesus, a lawyer asked: “Which is the greatest commandment in the law?” And Jesus’ answer, without hesitation is, to love God above all things, and our neighbor as ourselves.
There is an abundance of evidence from the pages of Scared Scripture to show that it is impossible to truly love God and not love people. This is primarily because every human being is the visible image of God that we can relate to, for every person is created in the image and likeness of God. Since we do not see God physically to show him love, God demands that we show it to him through the people around us. It is for this reason that St. John asks how we can possibly claim to love God whom we have not seen, if we do not love our brothers and sisters whom we see daily (I Jn 4:20).
The necessity of love for one another in our everyday lives as Christians is sacrosanct and non-negotiable. The seriousness of this is captured by St. Paul in his hymn of love. He says even if we are angelic, even if we possess the gifts of knowledge of mysteries, even if we can speak in tongues, even if our faith can cause incredible things to happen, even if we volunteer to become martyrs for the sake of Christ, but we do not have love for one another, it is all a waste, for such gifts and powers will do us no good (I Cor 13:1-3).
On the last day, when we stand before God’s judgment throne, many souls may receive a very shocking blow, for God shall tell them that all along, they were wasting their love, loving him without loving human beings, especially the poor and the needy.
- It is wasted love, if for the love of God, we can make huge donations in church, but cannot help a poor widow pay her child’s school fees.
- It is wasted love, if for the love of God, we are very meticulous with the payment of our tithes and the sowing of seeds, when a neighbor’s child is dying for lack of funds to pay hospital bills and we cannot offer to help.
- It is wasted love, if for the love of God, at Christmas, we give a hamper to a priest full of things he may not need, when we cannot make a small donation to St. Vincent de Paul for the feeding of the poor.
- It is wasted love, if for the love of God, at occasions in church, we make huge donations and people clap for us, but our cooks and security and drivers and stewards are owed their salaries.
- It is wasted love, if for the love of God, everyday, we spend very long hours lying down before the Blessed Sacrament, or kneeling down in prayers in Church, with heads tilted at an angle 45º, when we cannot visit a sick church member.
- It is wasted love, if for the love of God, we join several pious groups in Church and are always active with church activities, whether we are rich or poor, and we treat the children of other people living with us wickedly.
- It is wasted love, if as a Christian who professes love for God, you will demand to have carnal knowledge of that young girl before you help her get a job or secure an admission to school
- It is wasted love, if for the love of God, we can contribute money alongside other friends to buy a car for a priest/pastor who already has one, but cannot set up a small business for a poor widow who has children to care for.
- It is wasted love, if for the love of God, we preach love of God, and we don’t practice love of our neighbors.
Little wonder Jesus says in the parable of the last judgment that people will simply be told: “I was a neighbor in need and you either helped or refused to help me, therefore, receive your appropriate reward” (cf Matt 25:31-46).
Today, Jesus reminds us of how not to waste our love; the first reading from the Book of Exodus (22:21-27) gives us some practical tips on how to do this. Now, it is left for us to go and put it all into practice, for it is foolish to hear God’s word and not practice it (Jam 4:22-24).