Epistle: Ephesians 4. 1-6 Gospel:
St. Matthew 22. 34-46
Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
The peace of Christ be with you!
St. John of the Cross zealously pursued the reform of the Church through
the Carmelite order. He called for a return to simplicity and poverty in
an age that glorified materialism and worldly fashion. He placed his love
of God first and spurned human respect, risking violent attacks and even
death. His single-mindedness, prayer and holy example won the day.
Today we encounter Christ in conversation with a lawyer who has asked
him a question: 'Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?' This worldly
man needed to learn the preference for Christ over this world. He asks,
not in order to learn, but in a malicious plot to trap Christ and destroy
him. Out of this malicious intention Christ brings forth the beautiful
gift of the "greatest commandment": "You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is
the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall
love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the
law and the prophets." (Mt 22:37-40)
The Decalogue, the ten commandments, must be interpreted in light of
this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:
The commandments: "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill,
You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are
summed up in this sentence: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the
law.' (Rom 13:9-10) (CCC 2250)
We also read, "The word 'Decalogue' means literally 'ten words.' (Ex
34:28; Deut 4:13; 10:4)(CCC 2056) "Jesus summed up man's duties toward
God in this saying: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' (Mt 22:37) This immediately
echoes the solemn call: 'Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.' (Deut
6:4) "God has loved us first. The love of the One God is recalled in the
first of the 'ten words.' The commandments then make explicit the response
of love that man is called to give to his God." (CCC 2083)
The misery index is way up in today's world, all the experts agree.
Family breakups, murders, cheating, stealing, lying; all are present reminders
that despite the predictions of many, man's lot is not improving. What
is needed, of course, is love and concern for neighbor. On that many also
agree. But the confusion enters the scene when all the experts convene
to find the solution to the problem. For Christians, followers of a revealed
religion, no committee is necessary. We worship and obey the Triune God,
who has spoken the "words" that will bring us goodness, peace, and love.
Man's inhumanity to man must be attacked, but all efforts are impotent
without the first step: love of God.
Each man and woman must give first place to God and the kingdom, in
love and obedience, and this is spelled out in the first commandment. Reverence
is the outward manifestation of that love. The "sense of the sacred" is
not optional for the Christian. It must be practiced and improved each
day. If we do not reverence the Lord, we cannot with sincerity say that
we love him. And so we utter his holy name in prayer and praise, and never
in vain. And we acknowledge his true and real presence in the Sacrament
of his Body and Blood.
"Are these feelings of fear and awe Christian feelings or not?...I say
this, then, which I think no one can reasonably dispute. They are the class
of feelings we should have - yes, have to an intense degree - if we literally
had the sight of Almighty God; therefore they are the class of feelings
which we shall have, if we realize His presence. In proportion as we believe
that He is present, we shall have them." (John Henry Cardinal Newman) (CCC
A good first step, and a practical one, would be to follow the prescribed
practice in the liturgy of bowing the head at the name of the Holy Trinity,
Jesus, our Lady and the saint of the day. This is a custom of the Church,
but one which is not being handed down to our children. Another practical
step is a genuflection prior to receiving our Lord in Communion, according
to the strong recommendation of our bishops, in those places where Communion
is not received while kneeling. With these signs of our love we can witness
to others, and start a revolution of God's love in the world.
Let's pray for each other until, again next week, we "meet Christ in
- Fr. Cusick
Used with the permission of Fr. Cusick from his website.