Homily Thirty-first Sunday Year B To act out of love

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Homily Thirty-first Sunday Year B

Reading 1: When we talk about our relationship to God, what words best express that reality? Fear and Love: two seemingly strong opposites. We began our reading with the words, Fear the Lord and then we heard, Love the Lord.  Scripture speaks of fear of the Lord as the beginning of one’s relationship to God and love as the end of that relationship. But it is not fear from our normal understanding but fear in sense of awe and reverence before the Lord, who is God.

Because of this awe due to the Lord, we are urged to keep the commands of the Lord out of our love for God in response to his love for us.

Years ago someone reflected on a person’s maturation throughout life and applied to our spiritual journey, which depends on the reason and purpose of each of our decisions. He said that our initial reason for acting is usually fear of punishment. Then we act out of hope of a reward. Then we learn to do things out of obligation. Then we make decisions based on wanting to be accepted by others. Then we come to the point of making decisions out of our free choice. Finally, he said that the ultimate and highest motivation for our decision becomes love.

When God revealed his Commands to his people with the expectation of them being obeyed, the people did so for the most part out of fear of punishment, out of hope of reward, out of obligation, etc. He desired them to do it out of love. “Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, etc.”

Reading 2: The reading identifies three roles that Jesus, out of love for us, has taken on. He is our Intercessor, our High Priest and our Savior. He chose to be each simply out of love of the Father and out of love for us. Seated at the right hand of the Father, he now intercedes for us as we journey to the Father. What he intercedes for is us to be eternally with God in glory.

As High Priest, he offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for our sake. In so doing he became our Lord and Savior, reconciling us to the Father and to one another. This is how much he has shown his immense love for us.

Gospel: Jesus perfectly lived in his humanity the love of God. His response to the Scribe was not just pious words but the reality he lived.  Love of God primarily and subsequently love of others were the hallmarks of Jesus’ life.  As such, Jesus has become the pattern for each of us as we seek to be his disciples and live in love.

The Scribe could be each of us. We come to Jesus seeking the truth, desiring to be faithful to God. In asking his question the Scribe is a lawyer, who is aware of the many additional commands of the Law that were imposed as an obligation upon people. He was seeking simplification.

The answer Jesus gave him was the very prayer called the Shema each covenanted Jew recited several times a day. The Scribe acknowledges that Jesus spoke the truth. In turn, Jesus affirms the Scribe with one difference. To know the right answer is the first step. Now, it was important that the Scribe live in the truth, not by saying the words only but by choosing to love God and others out of love.

To know the truth with understanding shows that we are not far from the Kingdom of God. To live the truth with conviction and commitment is to be in the Kingdom of God. To be not far from the Kingdom of God is different from being actually in the Kingdom of God. It is the difference between eternally not being in God’s presence and eternally being with the Lord. The difference is determined by the reality of our love of God and others.

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