30A – 29 Oct 2023
Love God, love self, love others
Message by: Fr Richard M Healey
MP3 media (9am)
MP3 media (5pm)
In this homily, Fr Richard Healey shares personal annoyances and reflects on the teachings of Jesus about love and justice. He discusses the two greatest commandments: to love God with all one’s heart, soul, and strength, and to love one’s neighbour as oneself. The speaker emphasises that these commandments are not just about following rules, but about how we treat others. They explore the meaning of love, acknowledging the challenges of loving others, especially when they annoy us. The episode concludes with the speaker encouraging listeners to share God’s love and mercy with someone in their life who may need it.
(00:00:00) – Do you have something that just cheeses you off? There’s this big red button on your back, and some of your friends just love pumping away on that button, pushing your button about particular issues or things. I mean, I was thinking about it during the week and realised I’ve got a whole lot of those buttons. There’s this whole kind of control panel in my life, these different buttons that can be pushed. Some of them when I’m driving, you know, when I’m on the M5 going into the city. And the slowest lane is lanes three and four, you know what should be the fast lanes. But those people who love travelling in lane three, they’re like, well, I’m not in lane four, so I’m keeping left. And you like, no, the rule is keep left. That’s lane one, maybe lane two, not lane three. And those trucks that are in lane three and four and you’re like you’re limited to 100ks and the speed limit is 110. Anyway I’ll, I’ll stop there. In my rant about all of this.
(00:01:00) – But there’s lots of those kind of situations where we get pushed or there’s these things that upset us. The first reading today tells us some of the things that makes God angry, that ticks God off. And it’s about justice, which makes sense because we know the God is the God of justice, that he hears the cry of the poor. That when Moses was there in the wilderness, in Exodus three, we hear the story, and God appears to him in that burning bush. And God says, I have seen the oppression of my people. I have heard their cries, their longing. And here in Exodus 22, after the great Theophany, after the great appearance of the Lord, they’re on the holy mountain, and Moses and the whole of the community, the whole of the nation is invited into this covenant friendship with God and God, saying, it’s not just about certain morals, about whether you look good about keeping certain things, but it’s also the way that you treat other people. That’s where the heart of this life, of the covenant, this life with God, is going to be fulfilled.
(00:02:19) – Now, when you carefully read from Exodus 20 through to the end of the book of Deuteronomy, the rabbis were able to discern the presence of a total of 613 commandments that are there. There are 365 commandments that invite you not to do things, prohibitions, things you shall not do, you should not kill, you shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. Three of the ten words. But there are also 248 commandments that are things that you shall do. You shall honour your father and mother. You shall keep the Sabbath day holy. So those different groups of commandments, the Rabbis would kind of ponder, is there a structure in them? Is there a system in all of those rules and regulations? Are there things that we should honour more specifically? Are there things that really do have a priority? And it was often the debate where you would test a different rabbi about it. So this question that is put to Jesus today is not unusual. He’s probably had it before.
(00:03:30) – And there’s another version of this story where a lawyer doesn’t come to disconcert Jesus, but who’s just pondering this and asking this question. It seems as an authentic kind of question. And so Jesus answers in a fairly traditional way by quoting from the book of Deuteronomy chapter six, where he quotes from the great prayer of the Jewish people, the semis pray three times a day in the life of Judaism. It’s this prayer that punctuates the whole experience. Let me call it the Shema, because it’s the first word of the prayer. In fact, in the Hebrew it’s repeated twice because to emphasise things in the Hebrew, you want to repeat the words Shema is a powerful kind of word. Shema doesn’t just mean to listen, it also has that sense. Pay attention. You might invite someone to Shema, or the prophets will lament because they say you have ears, but you do not Shimei, you do not listen, you do not obey. So when the word is repeated, it has that sense of inviting us not just to listen, but also to respond, to take this on board, to allow this to be the truth of our life.
(00:04:51) – So hear O Israel: the Lord our God is one, and you shall love. And in the word there is Ahevah you shall love. The Lord your God with all your heart. Which is Lev – the centre of your being, the whole sense of who you are, the essence of all that you bring. Your Nephesh, your your neck is the literal translation we often translated as soul. The Jewish people understood that the throat or neck was the thing that kind of connected everything together. It was the sense that, you know, obviously it was blood and oxygen and all that kind of flowed through the neck and something happened in your neck that the person would die. And so the nephesh became the source of all of that and became the heart of what it was for someone to be alive to, to have that whole experience. So love the Lord your God with all your love, your heart, your nephesh, your soul, and all of your me’od – your strength, your muchness, the sense of who you are and your ability to interact with the world.
(00:05:56) – And so it’s the whole of your being. That’s what we’re invited into. To love the Lord your God with all that you are, all of your being, all of your sense that that is the first of these commandments. But Jesus says there’s a second that is similar to this, and it’s only when we bring the second into this that we’re able to fulfil this covenant relationship that we’re invited into. And he quotes now from the book of Deuteronomy, from the book of Leviticus, chapter 19, and what we call the holiness code. And they’re you shall love your neighbour. Ask yourself, but how do we love others? How do we love other people? Particularly we know that there are lots of our neighbours, lots of people in our lives that just continue to push those buttons that continue to annoy the heck out of us. And sometimes it’s just beyond our human capacity and human strength to be able to love another person. So to love someone, ask yourself, there is a presumption that is there and that is that we have received that love, that we first allow that space to be filled with God’s love.
(00:07:09) – The only way that we can love others is if we’ve first taken that time and that opportunity to be nourished and filled with the love of God. And so to let that love also be at the very heart of our experience, to allow God to to love us and so that we can then love others. It does require a bit of learning, a bit of effort on our part, because this whole experience of love is kind of an art form. It’s not something that is just mechanically achieved. It’s not something that happens in our heads. It’s something that we need to learn how to do, when the only way to learn how to love is through loving. And so it’s when we begin to to make those first little steps in the direction towards love that we begin to see what’s possible, and we begin to be able to to pour something of ourselves into another person, to be of service, to be present to somebody, just to to be a listening ear or to to be someone that is available to them.
(00:08:16) – And to the extent that we begin to do that, we make capacity within ourselves to receive more love. We become part of that flow of love. So these two commandments, or this one commandment broken into two that Jesus offers us, is all about that experience of love, being loved by God, returning that love to the father, but also then letting that love fill us so that we can begin to be that flowing presence of love in the world. Is there someone in your life today that needs your love? Is there someone that is struggling? Someone that you know that maybe is grieving? Someone that has lost something? Someone that is in some experience of pain? You know, I’ve been walking this month for the Black Dog Institute to raise awareness about mental illness. And so there are so many people that suffer within our world, so many people that experience so much grief and loss and just thinking about one particular person and praying for them first, praying that they might experience something of God’s love.
(00:09:28) – Praying also that we might have the opportunity this week to be present for them, whether that’s a phone call or text message or an email, whether that’s making a visit, if they are a physical neighbour, someone that you can just smile at, someone that you can just be present in some way to share that love. We need to be those conduits of God’s love and God’s mercy. Receiving that love, but then sharing that love with those around us. And then we indeed are faithful to those first commandments that Jesus. Just gives us to love God with all that we are. And to love our neighbour as we’ve been loved ourselves.