Reflection for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B)
Jesus in today’s readings, underscores and leaves us with the enduring message that love is the religion of humanity.
Love essentially must remain at the heart of everything we connect to the sacred; and it is perceptibly also the fundamental ethic that must underlie our thoughts, words and actions – whether or not we actually believe in the presence of the Spirit – in order to ensure the sustainability of our sapient yet fragile species.
Even if we may have various expressions of and towards the Spirit, for which we are still in an unfortunate and sometimes violent disagreement, it is in and through love where all religious traditions may fully converge.
The commandments of love directly challenge us to transcend beyond self-love, for self-love is our natural instinct. Self-preservation and self-interest are indeed the assurance for individual continuity, for as long as the interests of one do not hinder with those of another. Hence self-love must at some point be overcome, because it does not guarantee the harmony of and peace for all. We have to train ourselves in the recognition of the other, so that we may realize the need for simple sharing, and eventually enjoy the spiritual happiness that comes with the achievement of everybody else’s fulfillment.
Simple sharing can also be undertaken on a more extreme level, when the need for it arises. Our Lord the Christ, humanity in its fullest perfection, has shown us by exhortation and by example, love in its most perfect manifestation: self-sacrifice, the total oblation of oneself for the divine Other and the human other. The priesthood of all of us as believers thus calls us to the same self-surrender, especially in situations when the pursuit of self-interests has become unjust and oppressive, and must be corrected. He as our Teacher and Master, is leading us to the understanding that self-offering is indeed the assurance for a most certain common future.
The commandments of love have two directions: to love God and to love others as we love ourselves. Upon these two admonitions rest the accomplishment of God’s reign. Jesus is firm in the instruction to love the Beloved “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength,” for only when we can love and serve the Father, will we similarly appreciate the loving and serving of those others whom he loves as well. Jesus lived what he preached, loving and serving without conditions, without borders nor pretense, giving even when it hurts, so that we “are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Jesus first revealed to us that God is Abba, our Father, and we are his children. Not that we are incapable of maturity or independence yet we in our human finiteness, are urged to depend on the gracious infiniteness of the Spirit who perfectly sees all, and who in love for us, wishes to guide all his children beyond false pleasures to true and eternal joy. God is a caring divine Parent, always prepared to provide everything we will need for the nourishment of ‘body and soul.’
So, it is only most appropriate that we respond in the same faithful love for the Father, expressing it through our desire and commitment to follow his will, praising and obeying him all the days of our lives.
Our discipleship is centered on two main tasks namely, to pray frequently and fervently; and to live in peace with others, sincerely and humbly serving those in need. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are taught to be mindful that our “neighbors” are those whom we must love and serve even if they cannot or will not love in return. Friend or foe, loved ones or strangers, they undeniably bear the image of him who created, redeemed and sanctified us, the embodiment of him for whom we have in love, given “all our hearts, all our souls and all our strength.”
We are therefore taxed to love even those who hate us and those whom we are inclined to hate; we must love, forgive and do good to them, even if we expect to receive nothing but more hatred, even harm or injury. We are also bound to love those who are in despair; we must love and serve them, even if we expect to receive nothing except the glorious promise of one day joining our Beloved in heaven.
Love ultimately is never the filling-up of oneself rather its emptying; it is never exclusively focused on the satisfaction of one rather the satisfaction of all. If we can only decide and begin in small steps to live less for the self and to live more for others, then the flourishing yet unconsummated peace of Abba will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.