Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sunday, October 26, 2014 - Thirtieth Sunday of the Year - Love of God has to show in love of neighbour

To read the texts click on the texts:Ex 22:20-26; 1 Thes 1:5-10; Mt 22:34-40


There is an immortal poem written by Englishman, Leigh Hunt about a man called Abou Ben Adhem. Abou Ben Adhem woke from his sleep one night and saw in his room an angel writing in a book of gold the names of those who love God. “And is mine one?” inquired Abou. “Nay, not so,” replied the angel. “I pray thee, then,” said Abou, “Write me as one who loves his fellow men and women.” The following night the angel came again and displayed the names of those who love God. Abou Ben Adhem’s name was on top of the list. 
This poem makes the point that true love of God and true love of our fellow human beings are like two sides of the same coin. One cannot exist apart from the other. 
 That is what we find in today’s gospel in which Jesus is asked about the greatest commandment in the law. Though he is asked for the greatest commandment only, in his response Jesus gives what at first glance seem like two but which are in reality one. True love of God and true love of neighbour is practically one and the same thing.

Jesus is here reacting against a one-dimensional understanding of love. For Jesus, true love must express itself in the vertical and horizontal dimensions. The vertical dimension refers to the love which a person has for God and the horizontal dimension to that love for God which must be expressed in love for the other. He even goes so far as to say this is the summation of the law and prophets, namely the summation of all that has ever been said by anyone. Thus, the first entails the second, the second presupposes and depends on the first. In neither case, however, is love construed as an emotion. 

Love for one’s neighbour means acting toward others with their good, their well-being, their fulfillment, as the primary motivation and goal of our deeds. Such love is constant and takes no regard of the perceived merit or worth of the other person. 
Love of God, on the other hand, is to be understood as a matter of reverence, commitment, and obedience. It is at once an acknowledgement of God’s identity as Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer and a reflection of that reality in the ordering of our lives. With this orientation toward God and others, the law and the prophets have reached their ultimate goal. 

The first reading from Exodus provides some help in understanding why these commands are interrelated. Whenever someone is wronged, hurt or forgotten, God hears their cry. Whenever one fails to regard the needs of the neighbour, he or she has broken trust with the God of compassion. After all, the Exodus text reminds the hearers of their own position as strangers and foreigners. The same God who took compassion on them when they were in exile now looks to see his own spirit of compassion living on in them. The God of love first and foremost draws all people into a loving relationship with himself. 
God’s love is also evident in Paul’s earliest record of his ministry. In his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul acknowledges that it takes courage to declare the Gospel in the face of opposition. This Gospel is about Jesus the tangible expression of God’s unconditional love. His sole intention in coming to earth was to save people from their sins by manifesting to them the reality of the unconditional love of God. This love experienced by them was a love that became visible in their actions towards their neighbours. The reason for the opposition is because people prefer to lead selfish and self centered lives rather than have the courage to live other centered lives like Jesus. Those with advantage tend to regard the existing order as appropriate. 

We live in a world that is quickly being destroyed by consumerism and greed. It is a world in which to “have more” is more important than to “be more” and even if this having more is at the cost of giving less and sometimes nothing to others. It is a world in which we turn our heads as the rainforests burn and glaciers melt only because we want to live in bigger houses and drive bigger cars that consume more oil and gas than can be produced. It is a world that answers the “wants” of a few by destroying more and more of God’s creation. It is a world in which those with enough and more clothes for themselves dare to take away their neighbour’s only cloak and leave him or her naked. 

Thus being loving and compassionate involves more than mere kindness. It is the passion to develop strategies and structures to lift up those who are down. If our political and economic systems allow the marginalized to fall between society’s cracks, then we who have been loved into action by a compassionate God are encouraged to challenge the existing order or to find ways to alter their predicament. To fail to do this is to lose God in the chaos of society.
Only when we show this love for neighbor in so tangible a manner that we can profess to love God.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014 - If you were given only one more day to live, what are the things that you would do? What is preventing you from doing these today?

To read the texts clcik on the texts:Eph 4:7-16; Lk 13:1-9
The warnings and admonitions regarding the coming judgement that began in 12:1, reach their conclusion here with a call to repentance. Jesus uses two sayings to make the same point. 
The first is about the calamity that occurred when Pilate slaughtered a group of Galileans and when the tower of Siloam fell and killed eighteen people. Though no other historical reports narrate these incidents, there may be some historical background to the first one, Josephus the Jewish historian does narrate many incidents, which confirm that Pilate shed much blood. In the incidents that Jesus narrates, however, he makes clear that what is required on the part of the human person is not the focus on sin and its consequences but on repentance, which means the acquisition of a new mind, a new heart and a new vision.

Near Eastern wisdom literature contains stories of unfruitful trees and the story of the barren fig tree is similar to the stories found there. While in the story as told by the Lucan Jesus there is mercy, it is still a warning of the urgency of repentance.

Each new day brings with it new hope and a new opportunity to right the wrongs that we may have done, to say the kind word that we ought to have said and to do the good that we ought to have done.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Love, Pure unadulterated love

Friday, October 24, 2014 - Where in the scale of “attention to detail” does your devotion to the teachings of the Lord rank?

To read the texts click on the texts:Eph 4:1-6; Lk 12:54-59

The warnings about the coming judgement continue in the Gospel reading of today. The text contains two clusters of sayings addressed to the crowds. They are charged with hypocrisy in the first of the two clusters for not being as observant of the signs of the coming judgement as they are of the weather. If they pay attention to the slightest sign of change in the weather, then they must also pay attention to the present time, which is the time of Jesus and his works and words.

In the second they are warned to make every effort to settle accounts so that they may be blameless when they are brought to court.

While we must keep in touch with what is happening around us so that our responses to different situations can be adequate, it is also important to keep in touch with what is happening in us. This means that while we need to take good care of our physical and material well being, we must not do it at the cost of our spiritual well being. 

Compromise is often better than confrontation. When it is not a matter of one’s principles or when one is not called to do something against one’s conscience then it is better to compromise when some conflict arises. This approach saves energy, time and money.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Look within you

Thursday, October 23, 2014 - Will you do good today even in the face of opposition? How?

To read the texts click on the texts: Eph 3:14-21; Lk 12:49-53

The verses of today contain three pronouncements regarding the nature of Jesus’ mission. The first is that he has come to cast fire on the earth. Fire is used as an image of God’s judgement, but ironically when it comes on the disciples at Pentecost (Acts, 2,3), it is the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the crisis of judgement is never far away. 

The second is about his own baptism, which may be an allusion to his death or to the conflict and distress in which he would be immersed. This governs his whole life. Until he completes his mission, he will not be satisfied.

The third is about the division that his mission will cause. Although the kingdom of God is characterised by reconciliation and peace, the announcement of that kingdom is always divisive because it requires decision and commitment. Though this announcement will indeed cause stress and division, Jesus will not shy away from it because it is the Mission given to him by his Father. Anyone who commits him/herself to Jesus must also then be prepared for the opposition that they will face.

The reason why the announcement of the kingdom brings division is because it calls for a radical change of heart and mind. It overturns our value system and calls us to a life that is challenging and if lived fully also challenges others. It calls for decision and commitment at every moment.