October 23, 2011

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins

Following the Way of Love

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”

Do you remember Moses?  Of course you do!  Associated with him is the giving of the Law.  He ascended Mt. Sinai and in the presence of God was taught the Ten Commandments as the finger of God inscribed the great words of God on stone tablets. (Exodus 31:18) In the meantime, the people grew restless and suspicioned that Moses now absent some 40 days had deserted them.  “Make us gods to lead us. As for this Moses who knows what has become of him,” they murmured to Aaron.

As Moses entered the camp, he witnessed the people in frenzy worship before a golden calf.  And Moses threw the tables of commandments to the ground.  The stone tablets broke in pieces symbolizing the broken relationship between God and his people.

It’s difficult to imagine the shattered heart of Moses as he witnessed such apostasy.  It took only days for the people to wander far from the God who in his mercy bore them on wings of love out of their Egyptian bondage.  And now there was only lawlessness and love grown cold.  At God’s direction Moses cut out two more tables of stone and hiked up Mt. Sinai to receive again the words of God written on the stone tablets by the finger of God.  When Moses descended the mountain his face glowed with the glory he had lived in the last 40 days.  With the testimony of God in his hands and in his heart his face radiated with the glory of God’s love.

God revealed himself to Moses on a mountain.  Many of the teachings of Jesus are given on a mountain.  Jerusalem is called Mt. Zion.  The Jerusalem Temple was built on Mt. Zion.  I shared some these mountain top experiences recently with a Hindu.  Last Sunday in the late afternoon me and my daughters Bethany and Heidi climbed up Clingman’s Dome.  As many of you know that is not a walk for the timid.  Straight up for 1/2 mile we walked until we reached the waiting viewing tower.  The sun was quickly dissolving in the western sky.  The mountains in the distance crowned with the glowing descent of the sun was majestic and stirred my soul.  The tops of the trees were painted with the last hurrah of Sunday’s sun.  And I thought about these readings for today.  I also shared with my Hindu companion from India some of my musings on our mountain top experience.

Serving God and neighbor is the pinnacle of love.  The way of love is a mountain top experience.  Here the sun of the glorious love of God never sets.  It never descends.  There is no varying in its degrees of intensity.  It never changes.  It never grows old.  With a world emaciated by hatred and hunger and war and strife as our backdrop listen with me to the words of Jesus:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.  And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Serving God and our neighbor is the essence of our faith. God invites imperfect people to walk the perfect way – the way of love.

Love is like the air we breathe.  If we run out of air we die.  When love grows cold or gives way to vengeance we all suffer loss.  Today’s world is in great need of God’s love.  It is important for each of us to stir up the love of God in ourselves.  A new devotion to him who first loved us will make us better witnesses in the world for which Christ died.  Love for neighbor is caring for the oppressed and befriending the widow and the orphan.  It is being an ever present help for those who need a shoulder to lean on or a listening ear.  This is the message of the the first reading from Isaiah.  God defends the immigrant and the oppressed.  He doesn’t look kindly on extortioners and oppressors or on those who see an easy buck at the expense of the poor.

Is there an easier commandment or lesser demanding commandment?  Not really.  To fail in one point of the law is to become guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)  Genuine faith in God expresses itself in love for one another.  What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works?  Can his faith save him?  If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. (James 2:14-17)

Faith without love is not faith.  If we say we love God and mistreat each other the truth is not in us.  He who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also. (1 John 4:20, 21)Hatred scars for generations; pure love is never forgotten. It is revered forever – in heaven and on earth -  and rehearsed at family gatherings.  I pray to be among those who heal and love.

Like a good neighbor God in Jesus Christ visited us and wrapped his arms around our world and drew it unto himself.  Why? Because God is love. Because God is not mad at us.  Because God did not hold our sins against us.  Because God is not willing that any of his neighbors perish.  Because!  That is the Love that beckons us to this Feast of Love.  We come as brothers and sisters to this banqueting Table and his banner over us is Love.  What a Friend we have in Jesus.  Freely he gives us himself so that we may become our true self and truly love one another.

Please God, may there be a renewal of that love given by the Spirit.  May we return to the world with joy from the Holy Spirit and be better husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends until you come to judge the living and the dead.  Amen.

Readings for this Sunday

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