Here as in Heaven: Sent

Homily for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

INTRODUCTION – Over the last couple of weeks, we have been considering how we have been tasked as Christians with the responsibility of making the Kingdom of God present in our world today. So far, our Here as in Heaven series has brought us to moments of reflection on how we have been invited by the Lord to participate in the great banquet of the Eucharist, sharing in the feast that awaits us in Heaven. We have also explored more deeply how each of us has been chosen as beloved sons and daughters of God, embracing the love that He has for each of us. Today, we turn our attention to how we are now being sent to bring that same love to those around us.  

THE GOSPEL OF LIFE – “Every October we celebrate Respect Life month. It is of particular importance this year because 25 years ago, Pope St. John Paul II wrote that the Gospel of life is at the heart of Jesus’ saving message to the world (Evangelium vitae, 1). In taking on human flesh, dwelling among us, and sacrificing his very life for our redemption, Christ reveals the profound dignity of every human person. This God-given dignity does not change with our stage of life, our abilities, our level of independence, or any other varying circumstance.​ Instead, it is rooted in the permanent fact that each of us is made in the image and likeness of God, created to share in the very life of God himself. The human person, as John Paul II says, is a ‘manifestation of God in the world, a sign of his presence, a trace of his glory’ (EV, 34). And we must reflect this truth in how we act and how we treat one another.”[1]

LOVE – Our readings today speak to us about what is at the heart of this Gospel of life, what gives us our human dignity, and what empowers us to be sent out in order to proclaim the very Gospel that Jesus handed onto us. The fundamental element of all of those aspects of our mission as Christians is love.

TESTING JESUS’ CREDIBILITY – In the Gospel today from Matthew, Jesus is again speaking to the Scribes and the Pharisees. In fact, in this encounter that we read about, Jesus is being confronted by one of the Scribes, a scholar of the Law. It is an effort to determine if Jesus is credible enough to be teaching others about God and the Law. But here’s the thing, the Scribes and the Pharisees have been listening to Jesus and analyzing His statements from the very beginning. They should know that He is credible to teach about God. So, why this constant questioning?

We see that the Scribes and the Pharisees are picking up their confrontations with Jesus. They are trying to back Him into a corner, to get Him to make a misstep. And yet, Jesus knows exactly what they’re up to. He also knows that He is now in the last two weeks of His life. Jesus knows that the time of His Passion is drawing near and so He begins to take more seriously His preaching to the Jewish people and that includes the Scribes and the Pharisees. He is trying one last time to get them to understand the fullness of the message He has been preaching all along. 

THE GREAT COMMANDMENTS – In this encounter with the Scribe, Jesus is asked what is the greatest commandment? Many Jewish preachers and teachers were often asked to sum up the Torah in one statement. So, in this instance, the Scribes and the Pharisees were testing Jesus to see what He would say. As we just heard, Jesus gives us the two great commandments: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…[And] you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

In that statement, Jesus gives us the meaning of our lives, the road to our fulfillment as Christians, and the secret to our eternal happiness. We all have meaning, we all have purpose, we all have potential because we are first and foremost loved by God. He created us out of love, He created us in His image and likeness. He created us so that we could come to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in the next.

EMBRACING CHRISTIAN LOVE – Jesus is telling us that we must love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We love God with our whole heart when we desire what He desires. We love God with our whole mind when we value and understand all things the way He does. And we love God with our whole soul when we actively live in accordance with those desires and that understanding, choosing what God would choose in our place. Only after that love has been fostered within us can we go out and love our neighbors, treating them as we would want them to treat us. This is Christian love: not some passing, self-indulgent emotion, but a courageous lifestyle that puts God first, others second, and self last.

When we finally embrace the fullness of this Christian love, it totally transforms how we see the world. It totally transforms how we embrace true discipleship. Once we are able to accept and embrace the fact that each of us is loved by God, then we are able to love ourselves as He loves us and then take that love to others, to share it with our neighbors. This is our fundamental mission as Christians.

FUNDAMENTAL MISSION – All of us are called to become imitators of the Lord and models of this form of love that He teaches us about. Throughout His ministry, Jesus always sought out those who were the least among us. He sought out the sinners, the tax collectors, the outcast, the lonely, the sick, and the burdened. He brought freedom to those who were held captive, broke the chains of oppression in people’s lives, and encouraged the downtrodden. He wept with those who mourned, cared for widows and orphans, fed those who were hungry, and clothed those who were naked. Then, in the final moments of His life, He showed us the ultimate act of love: He gave His very life, by humbly submitting Himself to death on the Cross for all of us, for our salvation.

THE MISSION LIVES ON – Now, that very same mission lives on in each of us. Each and every day, we are called to carry out those same acts of love. We are called to love our neighbors – all of our neighbors.

We are called to love the most vulnerable in our society, to stand up and defend the dignity of every human person from conception to natural death.

Most importantly, we are called to love the unborn, fighting for their rights, using our voices to change the very laws in this country that make it possible to murder a child in the womb. Because how can we love our neighbors if they first haven’t been given the opportunity to live?

We are called to love the sick and the elderly, fighting against any attempt to end the lives of those who are seen as a burden through euthanasia or assisted suicide.

We are called to love the immigrant who is simply seeking a better life for themselves and their families, ensuring that they be able to receive the help and the support they need to be freed from oppression or despair.

We are called to love those who have been imprisoned, even those accused of the most heinous of crimes, fighting for the lives of those on death row in the hopes that our Christian witness can lead them to conversion of heart.

We are called to love those who have, often times, been neglected by members of the Christian community – including those experiencing same-sex attraction, the mentally ill, the homeless, atheists, and agnostics.

We are called to love those who share different political viewpoints than we do – Democrats, Republicans, Trump supporters, Biden supporters.

We are called to love those who look different than we do, who speak a different language than we do.

CONCLUSION – The mission that Jesus entrusts to all of us today is the call to love everyone. This is our fundamental responsibility as Christians. Christ is sending us out to be missionaries; we are being sent as imitators of Him and models for all believers. It should be our prayer that we not leave this church today without having committed to reaching out to a neighbor in need. If we each do just one act of Christian charity this week, we will expand Christ’s Kingdom, making it ever more present here as in heaven by becoming channels and outlets of his grace. May each of us renew that commitment to accept the Gospel of life, to fight for the dignity of all human beings, to encourage the respect for life at every stage, and to embrace this fundamental mission of loving our neighbor. This week, let’s go out and change the world, one neighbor at a time.

[1] Fr. Adam Nowak, Homily for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, St. Frances Cabrini Catholic Church, Allen Park, MI.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Family Catholic Church, Orlando.

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