Did You Love? – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel reiterates a simple and straightforward message that features prominently in Jesus’ teaching: love of God and neighbour. That love is total – “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” It also includes love of self.
The older I get, the more I understand the truth and simplicity of this teaching. At the same time, it becomes more challenging. How do I best show love to others?
Can I love a world that is becoming more difficult? Can I love people despite the fact that they don’t reciprocate? Can I really love people and structures that are anything but loving?
What is the most appropriate way to love this person at this time? What do I do with the expectations I have of those whom I love? Can I really love strangers and enemies? And so on.
At a time of a major life-changing illness I lamented to someone that everything had been taken away from me: health, freedom of mobility and the freedom to do what I wanted.
I told him that all I had to rely on were family, friends and God. His blunt response was, “And what is wrong with that – family, friends and God!”
I’m writing this from the place where I grew up. I’ve been here for a family wedding. I’ve had an opportunity to spend time with family and friends. I grew up in a loving environment with a strong sense of community – things that are becoming increasingly unusual in our culture.
My closest friends are people I’ve known for a long time. Many are associated with my sixty-one years of life. They are now grandparents. This is where I learned what love is and how important it is.
Family, friends and God. I have plenty. But I occasionally wonder if I am not missing something else about life. Isn’t it all about work? Isn’t it all about achievements? We know, of course, that love is closer to the heart of the mysteries of life. Not a list of positions and achievements.
Many years ago I was wrestling with my future – whether to continue with the very good ministry I was enjoying as a member of the creative team at our spirituality centre in Guelph, Ontario; or to remove myself from this and pursue further academic work in theology.
Either option would have been good and “of God.” I used a discernment technique that Ignatius of Loyola recommends when we are being indecisive. I imagined myself at the end of my life. It was in that that I realized that God’s approval of me wasn’t contingent upon whether or not I had a doctorate in theology.
The question I’ll probably ponder and pray about at the end of my life is: Did I love enough? Did I make use of my gifts to make the world a more loving place?
Brenda Merk Hildebrand has a good summary of today’s Gospel in her commentary in Living With Christ.
“In the midst of our own confounding and confusing times, it might be helpful if we simply stop and quietly ask ourselves: What is the most loving thing to do – right now – for myself and for the other?
Imagine how quickly anger, sarcasm, hatred and violence could be transformed into words and actions that are loving. In the end, that is all that is asked of us. Quiet and prayerful, we might imagine the simplicity of a face-to-face conversation. As we listen, God gently inquires: Did you love?”
Today provides yet another opportunity for us to ask ourselves that question and to do something about it.