30th Sunday of Ordinary Time–To Love the Lord

We’ve heard this Gospel many times.  “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  We’re also to love our neighbors as ourselves.


Loving God sounds like a good idea.  After all, God gives us everything.  He created a perfect world for us in the Garden of Eden.  But then He created Adam, and everything got messed up.  Imagine being in Adam’s place.  Everything around him was perfect.  God said to him, “I’ve created all of this just for you.  You have perfect surroundings and perfect knowledge of all of it.  I love you and want you to be happy.  Oh, there’s just one thing.  See that tree over there; the one with the red fruit?  You can’t have that.  Stay away from it.  You don’t need it because you have everything else.”


Well, guess what?  Adam, being human like the rest of us, couldn’t resist.  He had to taste the red fruit.  So he did.  And here we are.  See, Adam didn’t trust God, and love and trust are opposite sides of the same coin.  We can’t love someone we don’t trust.  Just like you and me, Adam had free will and he chose to not trust God.  “The creator must be holding back something from me if He says I have to leave that one tree alone.”


You know the rest of the story.  Adam ate of the tree and got himself, and us, thrown out of the Garden.  It’s what we call original sin.  You and I didn’t eat from the tree, but we inherited Adam’s sinfulness; his lack of trust.


The world’s still perfect.  The trees and the rocks and the birds and the other animals are all exactly as God created them to be.  The only creature in all of the universe who isn’t perfect is man.  So, even though the world is perfect, our species has gone astray.  Our sins impose imperfection on God’s perfect world.


But what does Jesus tell us?  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”  How do we do that?  It’s hard enough to love someone you can see, and hear, and touch.  How do we love someone we’ve never seen?  I think first, unlike Adam, we have to trust God completely, and how many of us really do that?  God sent His Son to save us from our sins.  He left us a Church, the Roman Catholic Church.  He promised that the gates of hell wouldn’t prevail against it.  He said to Peter and the other apostles, “Whoever hears you hears me.”  He gave them the power to forgive sins on His behalf.  That’s our Church.  That’s what we believe in.  Or is it?  When Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to speak for Him, that was His guarantee to us.  But how many of us, myself included, have never been Catholic buts?  Catholic buts are easy to recognize.  They’ll say, “I’m a loyal Catholic but…..” and proceed to explain all the Church teachings they don’t agree with.  Another name for Catholic buts is cafeteria Catholics.


Loving the Lord, our God, means loving His Church and accepting its teachings, not just some of them, but all of them 100% of the time.  It’s trusting God to insure that our Popes and Bishops don’t lead us astray.  That’s our faith and we’ll profess it here in just a few minutes.


Jesus is God.  He promised us that when His Bishops, including His Popes, speak definitively on matters of faith and morals, they’re speaking for Him.  If you believe that any of the Church’s teachings are wrong, then Jesus must have been lying.  I don’t know about any of you other parents, but don’t tell me you love me then call one of my kids a liar.  That ain’t gonna fly.


We also show our love of God by assenting to His will.  Like I’ve said before God wants each of us to be the best version of ourselves we can be.  Like our many saints represented by the statues here in church, we each have a unique calling to live a life of heroic virtue.  If God has chosen you to be a parent, then He wants you to be the best parent you can be.  Not the best parent in the world (whatever that is) but the best parent YOU can be.


For example, I’m not good at building things.  When my boys were growing up, every year the Cub Scouts would have their Pine Wood Derby and every year they would be embarrassed by their ugly, slow cars.  I’d really feel like a failure as a parent when my son would come in last….again.


Now that my kids are all grown up, I realize that I WAS the best parent I could be.  I made a decent living.  I sent them to Catholic schools.  Jan and I are still married after 43 years.  Just because some of the other dads could build spiffy wooden cars, it didn’t mean that I was a failure as a father.  One year my son Patrick’s car didn’t even make it all the way down the ramp.  The other day he was awarded a PhD in atmospheric science.  I guess his dad’s lack of car-building skill didn’t scar him too badly.


Another way we show our love of God is in our worship.  We come to mass at least once a week to give Him thanks and praise.  I hate the term “Sunday obligation”.  It implies something we HAVE TO do.  That’s not the point.  The point is that if we truly love God we want to come to mass.  Wild horses shouldn’t be able to keep us away.  Remember our ancestors, not the ones who built this church, but the ones who lived someplace other than the United States.  Some of them risked their lives to attend mass.  That’s faith and that’s love of God.


Finally, we love God by loving one another.  Today is Mission Sunday.  It’s a day when we’re reminded of how much so many of our brothers and sisters have given up to do what Jesus has called them to do.  Missionaries go to every corner of the world preaching the Gospel by their words and by their actions.


Everybody’s not called to that kind of life.  But some are, and love of God requires us to support them both financially and with our prayers.  300 years ago Saint Louis was settled by missionaries.  We were a mission territory.  Today we send missionaries to all parts of the world.  They spread the Good News to people who may have never heard of Jesus and while they’re at it, they provide education, food, and medical care to the local people just like those early missionaries did here in Saint Louis.


I know you’ll be generous in our second collection, and I know you’ll keep our missionaries in your prayers.  It’s one more way that we can love the Lord, our God, with all our hearts, and all our souls, and with all our minds.”

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