VERSION 1: Part 1 of 2 parts
VERSION 1: Part 2 of 2 parts
VERSION 2: 7am Mass
VERSION 3: 9am Mass
VERSION 4: 11am Mass
“The Goal of Loving Our Neighbor”
July 10, 2016: The Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deut. 30: 9 – 14/ Psalm 25: 1 – 10/Colossians 1: 3 – 8/ Luke 10: 25 – 37
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
These are the very words of Jesus who summarized for us the Law: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength; the second is like unto it: love your neighbor as yourself. This commandment was received from God. He who loves God should love his neighbor as well. Jesus said, “Do this and you will live.” This life that Jesus is talking about that we will live is the eternal life; the fullness of God’s life; the Zoe life.
Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:6, “The Lord will circumcise your heart to love Him with all your heart and your soul so that you may live.” This is the purpose. In John 10:10, Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy; but I came that you may have life and you may live and have it abundantly.” God’s will for us is abundant life. Moses said that this abundant life and the way to it is not difficult and out of reach. It is something that is not burdensome but doable. He also said, “Don’t ask who will get the answer and the way for us. Who will go across the ocean to get if for us? If it is heaven, who will get to heaven to get it for us?” It is not out of reach; it is actually near you – in your heart and in your mouth. It is not dependent on the things we think they are dependent on.
Why do we say it is across the ocean? We think the grass is greener over there. We think the economy is the solution. We think superpowers are the answer to our life’s problems. The answer comes from God and it is not dependent on race, geography, economy standing or social standing. It is not dependent on what school you graduated from. The answer is within your reach – not across the Pacific Ocean or in the United States of America. I am not blaming or condemning the Overseas Filipino Workers. Obviously, they wanted to provide something better for their family, so they feel that they have to go overseas. It is sad because we must realize that God has blessed us and has blessed us with more than enough. How many scientists tell us that we are either the number two or three wealthiest nations in the world with our natural resources? What foreigners do is to come to our country and take advantage of what we should be taking advantage of. It is within us; don’t look elsewhere. The spiritual grass is not greener over there. Everything we need is here, talking about our nation.
St. Gregory of Nissa in his very brilliant literary work called “The Dignity of Man” explained why man was created last on the sixth day after all the others have been created. Does this mean that man is relegated to the last day and is not something that is important? St. Gregory said that on the contrary, he is very important because God prepared everything beforehand before he ushered him to His guesthouse, His palace.
When there is a special occasion or we have a special guest, we prepare days before – cleaning, scrubbing and sometimes painting. If the party is at six o’clock in the evening, do we ask the guest to come at twelve noon to help us clean the house and prepare the food? We only invite him in when everything is ready. How would you feel if the guest would say, “Is this all that you prepared? I should have instead gone to the other party.”
St. Gregory also said that God gave man a task to cultivate and to keep that which was given to him and realize that God gave him more than enough for his enjoyment. Our God is more than enough. What He gave us, as more than enough, is within our reach. It is right in our heart and our mouth. God’s blessings are in our hands and they are waiting to be released. They are waiting to touch someone who is down, who has lost hope, who is sick, who needs comfort, who is going through a struggle. They are waiting for somebody whose life will change the moment you put your hand on their shoulder and ask them, “How are you doing today?” A simple greeting from an usher can change the countenance of a person. A simple handshake and greeting can assure someone that God loves a person. Don’t look elsewhere for it is in your hands, in your mouth and in your heart.
We have the blessings of God within our reach. He put it all, more than enough, within our house, in our nation, in our Church. We have more than enough gifts and talents in our Church – in our mouth, in our hearts and in our hands. What we need is here in our Church and it is more than enough, and this includes matrimonial prospects. There is a very eligible partner for someone in the Church, within one’s reach. Basically, God has provided everything that we need in the city, in the country, in the Middle East, in the East and the West. It is wherever you are. Enjoy them, appreciate them, employ them, and use them for God’s glory so that you can multiply them.
In the Parable of the Talents, when the talents were given to the servants, did we hear anyone ask, “Is this all? Five talents only? Two talents only?” What they did was to appreciate what they were given, used them and multiplied them, gave glory to God, and they entered into the joy of God. They did not look for anything else because what God gave them was more than enough. Five loaves and two fish were more than enough. Your offerings (not mathematically) are more than enough. It doesn't mean God doesn't want you to give more. He does because He wants you to be blessed more, but we have more than enough. What we need is to do is to offer our lunch of five loaves and two fish, however small it is, but it is our all and we give it. This makes it more than enough. If we hoard it, like the servant who hid the one talent, that makes it less than enough.
We are to bloom where we are planted, and we need to build the Eden that is given to us. Wherever you are, that is paradise for you. Fulfill the task that God has given to you. Don't look for something else. When Peter asked Jesus, “What about John? Isn’t it that You are close to each other?” Jesus answered, “What is that to you? You follow Me! I have something that I instructed you to do. You do your task.”
Jesus said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” How do we love the Lord our God? First, we obey His commands. On top of my head, we fulfill our baptismal vows. We were asked, “Are you willing to renounce evil? Are you willing to pray every day and read the Word of God? Worship Him? Grow in Him? Be involved in ministry? Give your tithes and offering?”
A couple of Sundays ago, I reminded you who you are as Charismatic Episcopal Church – sensitive to the Spirit. We believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and we are sensitive to Him. We are givers of ourselves – our time, our effort, our wealth. We are obedient, submissive, and committed. We are creatures of love because God has given us His divine nature as He did to the Colossian Church. Many times, we forget this and we are deceived into thinking and acting on it into thinking that we are creatures of hate.
The second thing that Jesus said on how to love the Lord your God is to love your neighbor as yourself. Who is your neighbor? Your neighbor is first, the people around you - the saints; those of the household of faith. Galatians 6:9-10 says, “Do not grow weary in doing good. Do not lose hope and do good especially to those of the household of faith.” It is not only them. Jesus said, “What you do to the least of My brothers.” Who are the least of Jesus’ brothers? In Matthew 25, He said, “They are those who are sick, those who are imprisoned, those who are hungry, those who need clothes and shelter; but not only them.” We don’t interpret this literally. The least are those who are destitute and bereft of the life of God; those who are hungry for the life of God; those who are sick and not living out the life of God; those who are imprisoned and are in bondage to certain things keeping them from living the fullness of the life of God.
In the parable, the neighbor to the Samaritan is the Jew, people who separated from each other. Think of Roman Catholics and Protestants. It is good that in some cases, in some places, there is a spirit of ecumenism between them. In other cases, they attack each other. In fact, in history, they killed each other, which was not supposed to be because they are neighbors and they are supposed to love each other according to the command of Jesus.
Who is a Samaritan to you? Has somebody separated themselves from you or have you separated yourself from somebody? Have you been forsaken, abandoned or dropped? You are to love them. Yes, you have been offended by them, been hurt by them, but you are to love them. They are your neighbor. The least, the lonely, the lost are our neighbors. Our neighbors are those hardest to love or hardest to get along with. When you think of people that you hate, you are to love them. Those who are most in need, we are to love them.
Some preacher from long ago said, “The need is the call.” The priests and the Levites thought their calling was not to take care of a Jewish brother who has been robbed and is half-dead. They believed that their calling is not to be disturbed or interrupted by that because they are going to the temple to offer prayers or burn incense. The need is the call and it requires a dying or denying of self. Some think that they are called to have missions to places like Paris or Maldives. Are you not called to a mission in Pineda, Pasig? Or to the autonomous region of Muslim Mindanao or to a remote place like Tabuk? A person said that he was called to minister to the rich people. I won’t condemn or judge them, but are they sure that it is the need that is calling him or the want that is calling him?
Several years ago, I was given orders to leave and the direction was that I was to live and be planted in Europe. I said to our leader, “Okay, wherever you send me, I will go. But if I would have my way, I would rather stay here.” It is not because life is better there. I knew, financially, life is better in Europe. Traffic is better there. At that time, many people were making an exodus out of this country. I did like to stay here in the Philippines because I would like to contribute, however small it may be, to the development of our country. Even if just pray for it every day, at least, I am here.
The need is the call. If we look for our convenience, it is a sign of a lack of love. It will make us spiritually unhealthy. We should learn from the false piety and the religiosity of the priest and the Levite in the parable. Godliness is not just temple duty or Church work. It is that, too, but we are called first to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. We are called to do kingdom work, which is done in love, not out of obligation. We are called to help our neighbors who have been robbed and wounded and left half dead. People have been robbed of a life that God wants them to avail of and a life that Jesus came for. Immorality, adultery, and unfaithfulness rob a person of the fullness of joy that a healthy marriage brings. They are half dead because they are not living the fullness of the life that is available for them. It wounds and injures the family. Drug addiction robs a person of his dignity. It deprives and imprisons a person and makes him half dead because it bars him from living the abundant life God had intended for him. This is what sickness and poverty also does – they rob and wound people.
Jesus said, “I was sick and imprisoned; I was hungry and you ministered to Me.” If a person is deprived and imprisoned, it makes him half dead and bars him to live an abundant life. Sickness and property rob and ruin people. The need is the call. Learning to love our neighbor is eternal life itself. Do this and you will live. Do this and you will have eternal life. Eternal life is the doing of the loving. It is great gain for us.
In Matthew 19, a parallel question was asked and it was a rich young ruler who asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said, “If you wish to enter life, love God, and love your neighbor. If you wish to be complete and to have abundant life, obey the commandment.” God wants His joy to be in us and for our joy to be full.
Joy. The priests in our Church have seven years of planting into little precious lives and they are reaping and they continue to sow. There is the joy and the fullness of being able to love our neighbor and being able to help them live the abundant life that God wants for them to live. It is not out of reach. It is not too difficult and it is not impossible because God put it in our hearts, in our mouths and in our hands, readily available. It empowers!
There is a saying, “Love makes the world go round.” Scientists would argue, “Physics makes the world go round.” No, love makes the world go round more than science, more than physics. If there is no love there, who is God, physics and science won’t work. Love empowers us.
Moses said in Deuteronomy 30:8, “You shall again obey the Lord.” God promised that He will put His commandment in our hearts, not just on stone. I can say with all confidence what I have in me: God is eager to see us walking and fulfilling the commandment if you wish to live eternal life, if you wish to be complete. He wants us to have that eternal life. He wants to bless us exceedingly, abundantly. He would gladly do it and He is waiting for us. Verse 9-10, “Then the Lord will prosper you abundantly and make you have excess for good in all the work of your hand, in your offspring, in the work of your cattle and grains, for the Lord will again rejoice over you just as He rejoiced over your fathers.”
We, as a people and as a Church, have this tendency to look back in what we call our glory days. God will again rejoice over you just as He rejoiced over your fathers, over the last generation, over your past. The glory of God’s house, His latter house, will be greater than the former. God wants us to participate in the kind of life He wants us to have. If you wish to enter eternal life, love God with all your heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength; love your neighbor as yourself. Your neighbor is who needs you; he who is wounded and robbed; he who may have offended you; he who may have forsaken you, abandoned you, and separated themselves from you. This is your neighbor and you are to love him as you love yourself.
This, my brothers and sisters, is the way to love because this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.