October 23, 2011 — Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Ex. 22:20-26; Ps. 18:2-3, 3-4,47 51; 1Thes. 1:5c-10; Mt. 22:34-40
Life is all about love.
That is clearly the theme in today’s readings. And, Jesus indicates that love is a very important theme for the life of the Christian disciple. He tells the disciples that “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your soul and with all your mind” is the greatest commandment. In other words, the most important duty of a Christian disciple is to love the Lord with his entire self. And, second only to that, the Christian disciple is to love his neighbor as himself. The life of a Christian is, beyond all else, a life of love.
The love that Jesus speaks of is not a selfish love fueled by our desire for recognition or even for love in return. Rather, true Christian love is love for the sake of love itself.
In the first reading, the biblical writer emphasizes the harsh consequences due any man who does not care for his neighbor. The people of whom the author speaks – aliens, widows, and the poor – are groups of people who were often treated as outcasts. Harsh as he is in his wording, the author of Exodus makes the point that the Lord loves all, and He expects His people to do the same.
The Gospel brings this law of love to new heights, emphasizing not the impending consequences when we treat others poorly, but rather the mere importance of loving others – God first and then our neighbor – if we are to be Christ’s disciples. Yes, it’s that important. We can’t be Christian disciples without selflessly loving all.
That’s not an easy task, especially when we recognize that others don’t always treat us with that sense of selfless love and sometimes even downright harm us. But, nevertheless, Christ’s law of love stands firm. We are to love. Always.
Jesus offers us the perfect example of this unconditional love on the cross. He died out of love for us. In order to make reparations for our sins so that we could enjoy life everlasting, the Lord experienced the most excruciating suffering, simply because He wanted us to reap the reward. We cannot even imagine what that must have felt like. He is the Lord of all. He had done nothing but give of Himself, creating man and sustaining him in love and, in that same love, calling man to Himself. And, because His creatures responded to that love in selfish sin, He was facing the cruelest of all punishments. This is the ultimate act of unconditional love.
As Christian disciples, we are called to follow Christ’s example. Even if that means suffering for the sake of another, this is our duty as Christians. We are to love, no matter the cost. With that, we set an example and we call others to follow Christ, just as St. Paul praised the Thessalonians for doing in the second reading.
Indeed, that is why as Christian disciples we are to live the stewardship way of life.
The stewardship way of life calls us to follow Jesus’ example and act on this selfless love and, in that, to set an example for others.
This is not always easy. In fact, in the world in which we live, where self-gratification seems to trump all else, one could say it is never easy. But it is possible. And it is important. If we are to lay claim to our identity as Christ’s disciples, we must love the Lord, love one another, and live our lives accordingly. The Lord has given us so much. He has given us the gift of love and, through His own suffering and death, He has shown us how to selflessly share that love by laying down our lives for others. What’s more, He has given us time, talent, and treasure, and it is our duty as Christian stewards to use them in love of God and in love of neighbor.