30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Love of God and neighbour come together in Jesus who is God and man. It is good to recall how it is we know Jesus who is God. There is the great love story between God and Man recorded in the Bible, from the very first moment of Our Creation to the last supper, the cross, resurrection and ascension. There is the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in those early days of the Church. The authority of Christ echoing down the ages through the apostles and their successors, his continuing presence in his Church and in history – in his Word, his sacraments especially the Most Holy Eucharist, the Mass, and there are the men and women, the saints who reflect his presence in their lives, our parents, the parish community, our daily prayers, our daily lives – in all these ways we come to know God and to recognise that he loves us and in so doing we come to love him. Think of a child coming to know his parents, recognising their in so many ways – and responding in love. It’s natural.
Our love of God of course is also supernatural – it is only possible because through his cross and resurrection, through the sacraments God has made it possible.
Of course over the years this love will change, it will mature, be purified and come to occupy every aspect of our lives. If we let it. For love is not just a feeling or an emotion it is also an act of will, it involves our intellect, it involves choices, decisions, sacrifice and effort – in co-operation with God’s grace. But as love grows so communion deepens between the lover and the beloved. God’s will and my will coincide, I come to desire what God desires, I come to love what God loves. That is why love of neighbour, even of enemy becomes not just possible but necessary. God loves them, and I love what my lover loves.
A saint noticed once that there was an unfriendly, unpleasant, sometimes downright rude lady who used to come to Church. No one liked her, talked to her or even sat near her. So the Saint made the effort every Sunday to sit next to her. After a few weeks the lady said to the Saint. “I notice you always make a point of sitting next to me what is it you like so much about me?” The Saint of course said “What I like about you is that God loves you so much and so I love you.”
The strength to love like this, and I suspect all of us know we need to grow in love, the strength only comes from the Blessed Sacrament, from Our Lord himself. Through spending time in prayer before Our Lord and when it is possible receiving him in Holy Communion.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta spoke to us once when we were in college. We thought she would talk about caring for the poor and dying the great expression of love of God and love of neighbour. What she said was, over and over again, “Pray before the Blessed Sacrament, pray, pray, pray,”
As we meet Our Lord in the Blessed Eucharist, as we recognise his love and love him back, our love for neighbour becomes not a difficult burden but the simple handing on of a gift we have been given in abundance.