Homily for the thirty-first Sunday, year B

A scribe asked Jesus; which commandment is the first of all? There must be a kind of build up to this question, something must have made the scribe to ask the question. The scribe heard the religious authorities disputing with one another about resurrection, and so he asked the question only when he noticed how Jesus silenced them with his response. Been convinced about the reality of the resurrection therefore, the scribe became more desirous and wished to do all it takes to enjoy the beauty of the resurrection. So, he asked, which commandment is the first of all?

In response, Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments in just two; love of God with all your heart and love of neighbour as oneself.

Note that Jesus did not abolish the law, he rather summarized it in two commandments. Granted that salvation does not come from the law, but obedience to the law is still a requirement for the joy of the resurrection. That is why Jesus says to the scribe in our gospel passage this morning; you are not far from the kingdom of God. The scribe is not far from the kingdom of God because he now knows that salvation does not come from the law, but can only get to that kingdom if he begins to obey in love; love of God with all your heart and love of neighbour as yourself.

Remember what Jesus said in Matt. 6:21, that where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. If we are to love God with all our heart, then he has to be our treasure. To love God with all our hearts is to prize him above everything, to put him first in our lives. We cannot claim to love God when we disobey his commandments, our love for God must be translated into obedience. Obedience to the law, but not in fear but love. I obey the law of God and that of the Church, not because I am afraid of been thrown out of the Church as the Pharisees did to the Jews, but because I love God. St. Paul’s love for God translated into accepting humiliation in the hands of the enemies of the cross. To love God is to hold unto him alone as Moses reminded the people in our first reading this morning, in good and in bad times we must love. To love God is to treasure his words in our hearts and learn to always say yes to his will as Mary did. This love cannot be separated from the love of neighbour. Our faith and our love for God is made manifest in our love for neighbours, for we cannot truly love God without loving our neighbours. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers and sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also (1 Jn. 4:20-21).

The Pharisaic obedience to the law was nothing but drama. Christianity is not about law, but faith expressed in love. Love is powerful, by it we are known as followers of Christ Jesus (Jn. 13:35), and by it we are tested.

The commandment is not to love neighbours as they love us, but to love them as we love ourselves. I have no doubt in me that some people are almost unlovable, yet we are called to love them. Our love for God is tested not in the number of hours we kneel in prayers, but in how much love we show to others. Love is the key that opens every door.
Our goal as Christians is not to be told how near we are to the kingdom of God, but to be welcomed into the kingdom. Jesus said to the scribe, you are not far from the kingdom of God, but he was not there yet. He needed to love God and his neighbour.

Dear friends, as we gather this morning to break bread together, let us live our lives like those who break bread. The common bread and cup we share is an invitation to love, to become what we eat. God is love, and those who worship him must do so in faith, truth and love.

 

Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA

Joel Okojie is an ordained Catholic Priest in the Order of St. Augustine. He has been a Priest for over a decade. He served as pastor in two different parishes, he was one time Novice Master and a member of the Provincial Council of the province of St. Augustine of Nigeria, and he is currently on a mission in response to the needs of the Church in Canada.

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