October 25, 2020
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Dear Followers of the Holy One,
Today’s gospel, Matthew 22: 34-40, reveals a two-fold action toward holiness. We are to love God and then learn how to love people. This is the foundation of the Christian life. We may easily learn one or the other. However, putting both into practice changes us and the world.
My years of priesthood have taught me many things. My ministry has been a form of spiritual direction for me. Learning to love is never easy in any commitment. I am still learning how to love God with all my heart, soul and mind, and my neighbor as myself. I am no model of fidelity. Yet, the purpose of the Christian life is to learn how to love.
Sometimes we get caught in thinking that love is the fidelity of keeping rules in the Church. They may be guides toward love, but we do not have an intimate relationship with rules. Rules and dogma do not replace the person of Jesus Christ. Unless Jesus is at the center of our lives, what we do in the Church has little meaning.
One of the most touching encounters with people who have taught me such fidelity came from a woman I met while in Portland. She had been severely abused as a child and gave up on the Church. She gave up because she always thought she needed to heal her own life. She showed up in our community that served people every day. Service was obvious and real. Yet, she needed to learn how to do that.
I listened to her for many years. Every inch of her pain was exposed to God. She spent many decades in therapy, but never spoke to any one of faith in the Church. I have never heard with my own ears the ache in a human soul like hers. God had her in his hand. Every inch of healing was a struggle, yet she believed with her entire being that God was with her. That was a very slow and arduous process. In our conversations, I helped her realize that God does the healing and not her. She was flabbergasted at such a notion. Once that damn broke in her, she allowed God in and God moved her toward an incredible fidelity of prayer and service.
As I would listen to her, I wept. She moved me so much as a human instrument of pain and love. She absolutely understood the message of today’s gospel, that love has to be at the center of life, that only God can heal, satisfy and claim our souls. I know in her as I reflect on her suffering, that life had given her such raw pain and that God had revealed a depth of love to heal her. When I knew her, she was in her sixty’s, so I know it is never too late to discover the love we are searching for in God. God’s timing is not our timing. I know that she helped me discover God’s faithful love in my own life as I listened to her.
So, years have gone by and I don’t know what has happened to her. I do know that her search for God’s love and her search to love people are still with me. Especially in these difficult times in our world, I go back to such people who reveal to me that the message of this gospel is real in every human heart. The message of loving God and loving people may very well be hidden among people we least expect, people on the periphery of life, people suffering from mental illness or addiction or in some way out of the norm of what we think the center of life is or should be.
We all have faced uncertainty and fear in our world in these months of pandemic. Such fear within us may very well be the door that is opening for us to claim the love of God. If our hearts remain in prayer, reflection, and we sort through the fear that evolves in our hearts, we may walk through these dark days becoming a people of hope. I so desire that for my own life, and I am sure you do as well.
Please, don’t let fear make a permanent home in you. Today’s gospel reminds us that love is the way to prayer and service. Only love through the complexities of fear, grief and loss may lead us to another side of life and the other side is love itself. God is in charge and God is in charge of the healing we need. So, please, allow God to do God’s work in you and in us.
Love is the greatest commandment. This is the rule to follow, love God and love neighbor.
God give you peace,