Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time: October 29, 2023

Matthew 22: 34-40

Fr. John Tran

A few years ago, I read most of a novel called The Homeless Bishop. In it, a middle aged man entered a church one Sunday; he was not the kind of man the members of congregation were used to seeing in their church for Mass. He was obviously not respectable. His clothes were worn and dirty. He did not smell too good either. Yet he was devout and pious. He knelt in the back of the church very quietly. People, respectable ones, that is, moved away from him. The ushers were tempted to ask him to leave. And when time for communion came, he went up to receive, but the priest passed him by; however, a Eucharistic Minister giving out communion motioned for him to come and receive. The homeless man went over gratefully and received. As it turned out, the disreputable man was a bishop from Italy who, with the Pope’s permission, had come here to learn why Jesus loved the poor so much. So, he spent year in the United States to live among the poor and get to know them.

It has been said that we cannot love our fellow human beings, if we do not love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, and your whole mind. This love of God is the first and greatest commandment that Jesus gives us in today’s gospel from Matthew. It is is first a summary of the Law of Moses. Without complete love of God, other people are sources of mistrust, of suspicion, of dislike or even hatred. Only through God’s heart and mind can others be lovely to us, especially those who are different from us. That is why our efforts must first be total love of God with no strings attached.

How do I come to love God so completely? We come to love God as one of his sons or daughters by coming to know Jesus as the one who loved me so completely that he could accept me as I am; and not only that, he was willing to die a horrible death for me. And, when he rose from the dead, he brought me to his Father as a valuable child. Once we realize this, and can begin to believe it and feel it, we can move on the the second commandment in today’s gospel.

“The second commandment is like [ the first]: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Without judging the ushers, the respectable people or the priest in the story of the homeless bishop, we can see that, at that moment at least, the Eucharistic minister had remembered how much he or she loved God; remembered what Jesus had done; and was able to truly love that man who was so different. How often are we given the same opportunity. In today’s world, we sometime have a difficult enough time to love ourselves; though if we remember Jesus, we can remember that we are valuable to him. And when we remember the love we have for the Father and the love he has for us, we can see value in our neighbor whether that person is a family or communiy member, a friend or a passing stranger whom we may never see again. But, what an impact this love of neighbor flowing from love of God can have on that person. It can be life saving. But even more, that person may be my salvation too.

Now, each day this week, will we be able with the love of God, to love a friend or stranger with out judgment and be a real neighbor to that person?