Homily Thirty-first Sunday Year B To be in the kingdom of God

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Homily Thirty-first Sunday Year B

 

Reading 1: We heard two strong words in the first reading: Fear and love. The scriptures tell us that fear is the beginning of relationship with God and love is the end of that relationship. The fear of the Lord, spoken in scripture is not our human understanding of fear. We are not to fear the Lord because of his great power, but because of the awe and reverence we should have for him as God. Today’s word tells us that we are to express this awe of God by keeping his commandments.  In this way we will express our love of God for who he is.

 

Someone expressed our spiritual journey as one of choice. Why do I choose to do this? Initially, I choose to do something out of fear of punishment. A parent tells a child not to do something or else he will be spanked. The only reason the child obeys is out of fear of punishment. The second step is we choose to do something because of a promised reward. If you get good grades, I will take you to your favorite restaurant. The third step is we choose to do something because the law obliges me. I do this out of obligation. The fourth step is I choose to do something because I choose to do it freely. The final step is that I choose to do something out of love for God.

 

In the words of the first reading, “to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”  In other words, I choose to respond to God not out of fear of punishment, not out of a promise of reward, not because I am obliged, but because I freely choose simply out of love for the One who loves me unconditionally.

 

Gospel: The Gospel reading picks up on the great Schema of the first reading. Every Jew was familiar with it, saying it several times during the day. “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!” Jesus was aware of the many laws that were imposed on the Jewish peoples over the years besides the basic Ten Commandments. So when asked which was the first of all the commandments and laws, he simplified it to two. Love of God above all and love of neighbor because of love of God.

 

The scribe was impressed and affirmed what Jesus said. In response Jesus said to the scribe: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” He knew the truth. Now, he needed to put into action what he affirmed in words.

 

Like the scribe we know the truth. We know God is love, that his love is unconditional and faithful. We know what God requires of us, to love him because he has first loved us and to love our neighbor as God has loved us. Like the scribe we too are not far from the Kingdom of God. But like the scribe knowing the truth and living in the truth may not always be the same.

 

The Great Schema reflects that to love God has to be more than something superficial, something that is mouthed, something that is hot and cold. It implies a total commitment to God. For me to be totally in love of God means that I have fallen in love and have chosen to make God the priority in my life. I want what he wants. I choose to say yes to him without fully understanding the consequences of my commitment. Jesus was in love with the Father, choosing to be obedient to him even to the death of the cross. Mary was in love with God and expressed her total trust of him with her Fiat: “Be it done to me according to your will.” Peter came to this crossroads in his walk with Jesus after the resurrection. Jesus asked Peter three times: “Do you love me more than anything?” Peter professed his love three times. Then Jesus said: “Follow me.”

 

The role and depth of my love of God is key to my happiness and fulfillment. This is the pearl of great price, the treasure hidden in the field that I am willing to sell all things for. This was the realization that transformed Therese of Liseux into a saint. “My vocation is to love and do all things out of love of God.” I don’t want to be not far from the kingdom of God. I want to be forever in the kingdom. My ticket into the kingdom is the death and resurrection of Jesus. He paid the price of the ticket. But I must stamp it with a life of love for God and others that is authentic and life-giving.

 

Reading 2: It is comforting to know that as we make our journey from human fear to fear of God, from doing things out of obligation to doing them out of love of God, Jesus, who saved us is interceding for us before the throne of the Father. It is comforting to hear the words from the Letter to the Hebrews: “Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.” The only meaningful way to approach God through him is through love.  The more our love reflects his human love of the Father, the more the Father sees Jesus’ refection in us. It is love that sets me free to be fully alive in God. Be not far from the kingdom of eternal life, be in the kingdom through a choose of love. 

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