Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The readings for this Sunday are some of my favorites. They distill our whole faith down into a simple action: Love. Sometimes, especially when I was younger, I would get caught up in all the different “rules” of the Catholic faith. It sometimes seemed like an endless chorus of “Do this” and “Don’t do that” with little explanation as to why. I think the Jews in Jesus’ time also struggled with this burden – Jesus says, in the next chapter of Matthew, that the Pharisees “tie up heavy burdens hard to carry and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them.” (Mt 23:4) So when Jesus declares that the two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbor, it must have been as refreshing to the people of Jesus’ time to hear as it is for us to hear, two thousand years later. He says that above all else, we should love, and every other commandment that we have is tied up with and related to this supreme commandment.
And that is ultimately how we will be judged – our entry into the Kingdom of Heaven will not be based on how well we followed a set of rules just for their own sake, but rather on how well we loved throughout our lives. And how do we love? The answer is usually right in front of us. It’s the people we see and encounter every day – our family, our friends, our coworkers, our classmates, and teachers. Those are the people it is sometimes hardest to love – the people we know and interact with the most are the people most likely to let us down, simply because they also are human and imperfect. Even the greatest Saints had flaws! If you spent every day with St. Pope John Paul II or Saint Teresa of Calcutta, I’m sure you would recognize faults even with them eventually. Yet so often we excuse ourselves and our own shortcomings while simultaneously casting harsh judgment on the imperfections of others.
So, we need to learn to live with an active, joy-filled love in our daily lives. Just because the command to love is a simple one does not mean it will be achieved without cost. We need to practice it and work at it and sometimes it will be the very last thing that we want to do. If we can remember to love the people around us every day, then we will be well on our way to Heaven, and becoming the Saints that we were created to be.