Fr. Wilson Andrade is the pastor of St. Ann Parish and the Native Peoples’ Mission, both in Toronto, Ont.
“Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.” (translated as, “Where charity and love are, there God is”) is a prayerful and popular antiphon used for Holy Thursday’s liturgy of the washing of the feet. This melody fills us with a hopeful image of the loving presence of God. For me, the words of this song go to the core of today’s Scriptural passage.
I would like to reflect with you on these three words: Life; Love; and Lord.
“Life is not a problem to be solved but mystery to be lived” is a famous quote often attributed to American theologian and monk, Thomas Merton. This quote helps us to reflect on the precious gift of life that we all received from God. This coming week, as we celebrate All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, we are called to reflect on life, death and resurrection in the shadow of the grief and sorrow that we share when remembering the faithful departed.
In today’s first reading, we hear Moses giving his blessing to the people as he calls on them to remain faithful to God, who is the author of life, who liberates them, who journeys with them and who was soon to bring them to the promised land.
For us Christians, we believe that Jesus is the way, the truth and life; He who fulfills the promise of God through His sacrifice on the cross in order to bring us life everlasting.
Let us reflect on our life in the loving presence of God. On how God gave us life, protected us and loved us. Let no one take away the joy of our life.
If we live in love, our life becomes meaningful and worth living. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus confirming that love of God and love of neighbour are the most important commandments of all.
Love is the foundation and the supreme virtue of a Christian life. We can attach many meanings to the word “love,” but in a Christian spirituality, love is understood as agape, a pure and perfect experience of love in God.
Agape is not just a feeling, but an intentional commitment made by a person who is faithful, compassionate and sacrificial in action without expecting anything in return. Agape in the Scripture is expressed as willful, pure and sacrificial love shared for the highest good of another person.
St. John reminds us that God is love. Since love exists in God, it is experienced and expressed within His divine self and is offered to all of us. Jesus gave us only one commandment: to love God and others as oneself. Love is our calling, our vocation and our motto in life. St. Paul, in his Letter to the Corinthians, wrote about the characteristics of love, placing love as the greatest among faith and hope.
The saints – holy men and women – realized their purpose in life was to be children in God’s love. As St. Theresa of Avila said, “It is love alone that gives worth to all things.”
Love makes life worth living, as it brings freedom, peace and joy. Love defines our life, shapes our ministry, directs us to touch the core of being in God and to be in love with God. As St. Theresa of Child Jesus said, “Let us love, since that is what our hearts were made for.”
After his conversion, St. Augustine said: “To fall in love with God is the greatest romance, to seek God is the greatest adventure; to find God is the greatest human achievement.” We can find God in loving actions shared with one another.
As we reflect on our life, called to live in love, we are called to be centred in the oneness of God. Love unites us all into the oneness of God’s presence. As is said in the great Shema Prayer, from the Jewish faith, “Hear, O Israel, The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.”
The perfect unity in love is found in God alone, who wants us all to be united as Jesus prayed for all the people: “May they be one, as we are one.”
St. John beautifully expressed this image in his letter addressed to the first Christian community and to us:
So we have known and believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. We love each other because God first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.
The Scriptures remind us that we will be judged by God with love and the measurement of this judgement is, as St. Augustine expressed it, a “measurement of love without measure.”
St. John of the Cross reminds us that “in the twilight of life, God will not judge us on our earthly possessions and human success, but rather on how much we have loved.”
With the Psalmist, let us echo with one voice: “I love you, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, the source of my salvation. The Lord lives!”
Lord Jesus, Love incarnate, fill us with your Spirit, that we infuse your love to all. May your Spirit of love be with us and help us to grow in love towards You and one another.
This homily is based on the readings from the 31th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B: Deuteronomy 6.2-6; Hebrews 7.23-28; and Mark 12.28-34 – The First Commandment