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Steward of God’s Creation
August 21, 2020
Leadership by Example
August 22, 2020

Homily for Friday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, 21 August 2020, Mt 22:34-40

A lady in her 80s once approached me and sought my advice. She said she was having a problem with her prayer life because her memory was beginning to fail. She would pray the rosary and sometimes find herself stuck in the middle of her prayer. Like, one time, she started praying by reciting the apostle’s creed. She actually recited it to me, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty…and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned…” And then she stopped and said, “Why am I suddenly reciting the I confess?” Where did I go wrong?
I smiled at her and said, “Don’t bother. It’s ok, God understands. If you can’t recall the whole creed, just say the summary. She looked at me and said, “Summary? What summary?” I said, “You can just say ‘I believe in God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. AMEN.” That’s enough. She went home looking more confident.
You see, it’s a natural thing to develop some memory glitches when you reach that age. Many years ago, I remember Archbishop Cruz giving the Pampanga clergy a surprise quiz. He was even bringing some blank sheets of paper and pencils with him. The question was, “List down the ten commandments from 1-10, in the right order.” Believe it or not only around 40 out of 100 got them right. He said, “Good heavens, what will you say to a penitent in the confessional box if he says, ‘Bless me Father for I have sinned; I have sinned against the 6th commandment? Blimey, you’ll be in trouble.”
What about you out there? Would you be able to get a perfect score if I asked you that question for a surprise quiz? No worries, I am just joking. If your memory is also beginning to fail, I have good news for you. If you can’t remember all ten commandments, you can just remember the summary, which is today’s Gospel—Love God with all you heart, mind and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself.” The late Cardinal Sin calls them the two lines of the cross: the vertical line (love of God) and the horizontal line (love of neighbor as oneself).
Now, if even that is difficult for you to remember, I have more good news for you. Jesus further summed up the two into one and called it a new commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” That’s all he asks of us: that we learn to love with the love of Christ, that “Greater love which no one has, than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
I do not know of a faith more inclusive, more universal, more practical and more simplified than Christianity. It is not only ecumenical but also a good point of departure for interfaith convergence. Who will object to LOVE as the very core and foundation of all faiths? I wonder if you will find a religion that would object to the statement as formulated by St. Augustine, “Where there is LOVE there is GOD.” It remains just as true when formulated the opposite way, “Where there is NO LOVE, there is NO GOD.”
If God is indeed love, as St. John says in his epistle, it means the most godless people in this world are not those without religion but those without love. Even St. Paul said it just as plainly: “Even if I have faith great enough as to move a mountain; without love, I am nothing.” Love, along with faith and hope, are the greater gifts of the Spirit which we all must seek. But the greatest, he says, is not faith or hope, but love. That’s as good as saying faith and hope are not even possible without the foundation of love.
Love is the most important gift of the Spirit. In our first reading, the prophet Ezekiel tells us he did as he was told; he saw a whole mountain of dried bones and prophesied over them. What happened? “The bones came together…the sinews and the flesh also came upon them, and the skin covered them. But,” he says, “THERE WAS NO SPIRIT IN THEM.”
Without love, we are like spiritless bodies. We can be alive, but lifeless, because a life without love has no meaning or purpose. Isn’t this what has become of many lives already, before the pandemic? People moving about like automatons, working, but not making a living but not really living life, building houses but not homes, building career and profession but unable to find vocation or mission? Our humanity remains spiritless and empty without love!
Remember that video I once showed you entitled THE GREAT REALIZATION? Let us not allow it to happen ever again that we build societies and communities that are bones, flesh and skin, but spiritless, loveless and meaningless. The pandemic has traced upon us a cross of suffering; but we have the choice to make the two lines meet, the vertical and the horizontal. By turning this instrument of torture into an instrument of unconditional love, compassion, care and self-giving, with Christ at its center, breathing new life into our spiritless endeavors, bringing about redemption to a world in a state of bondage.


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