Thursday, March 3, 2016

THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT


Homily for March 4th, 2016: Matthew 5: 17-19.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and prophets,” Jesus says. “I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” We sometimes hear that the Old Testament presents a God of law, the New Testament a God of love. That’s not true. While law is central in the Old Testament, it presents God=s law as an expression of his love B a gift granted to his chosen people, and not to others.  (Cf. Deut. 4:6-8) And while the New Testament does emphasize God=s love, Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus that he has come not to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Mt. 5:7). At the Last Supper he gives his apostles Aa new commandment: Love one another@ (John 13:34). Both parts of the Bible proclaim the same God. If God=s self-disclosure is fuller in the New Testament, this is because in it God comes to us through his Son. As we read in the opening verse of the letter to the Hebrews: AIn times past, God spoke in fragmentary and varied ways to our fathers through the prophets; in this, the final age, he has spoken to us through his Son ...@

Love of God and neighbor are the heart of Jesus= summary of the law in today=s gospel. When his questioner says that love is better than Aall burnt offerings and sacrifices@ B better, that is, than formal worship B Jesus tells him: AYou are not far from the kingdom of God.@ With these words Jesus is saying that God=s kingdom is present wherever love is present. 

But how can we tell when this love, which is the heart of God=s law, is truly present? Jesus= answer is clear. The test of our love for God is whether we love our neighbor. (Cf. 1 John 4:20) And love for our neighbor is genuine only if it means sharing with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us. This is the love for neighbor which God commands in his law, a matter not of feeling, but of deeds. 

Human laws command us to respect the rights of others. But I can respect your rights without having any human contact with you. Hence the enormous amount of loneliness in our society. Mother Teresa called loneliness Athe worst disease of modern times.@ There is only one cure for loneliness: love. We come here to receive love: a free gift, not a reward for services rendered. The One who gives us this gift does so under one strict condition: that we share his love with others.