Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Love is the Heart of All
I imagine that at some point in our lives, we have all heard someone ask “why does the Catholic Church have so many rules?” Perhaps we ourselves have been the ones to ask this question at points in our lives when we were not so convinced of the Church’s thought. This perception of the Catholic Church certainly echoes throughout our culture, particularly when Catholics speak up for the various truths and teachings of our faith. We may hear such a response to our efforts in the pro-life movement on behalf of the unborn, or when we speak clearly about the unchanging nature of marriage as between one man and one woman. Even those of us who are actively involved in spreading and defending the truths our Church holds dear may sometimes grow weary of the details and wonder, “isn’t Christianity really about Jesus anyways?”
Hopefully, every one of us finds our answer and refreshment in the Gospel today when we hear Christ tells us that the “first and greatest commandment” is that we should love the Lord [our] God with all [our] heart.” This one great commandment is the reason for everything, even the smallest and most detailed teaching of our faith. It is clear that even the second greatest commandment, to “love [our] neighbor as [our]self” comes from the first commandment to love God. Christ goes even further to say “the whole law…depend[s] on these two commandments.” Thus, in a very real sense, the Catholic Church only has two rules: love God before anything, and for His sake, love your neighbor. All of the other things we teach and concern ourselves with are simply the necessary consequences of those two rules.
A clear sense of the unity in our faith, founded on loving union with God, a union into which God first invites us, can free us from the lethargy, frustration, and discouragement that
sometimes accompany our Catholic life. Yes, we do have many teachings, and our Church requires much that our culture does not, but only because we have been invited by God’s love to an all-consuming and all-satisfying love in return. We may have much to say on how we and our neighbors ought to live our lives, but only because, our of a love for ourselves and our neigh-bors, we strive to bring all into a right relationship with the God who alone gives lasting joy.
St. Augustine once said “love, and do what you will.” While this could be misinterpreted as permission to do as we please in the world, we should take it to mean that if we are loving God back above all things, which means loving Him as He asks to be loved, and therefore loving our neighbors for God’s sake, then we will not need to worry any longer about the multi-tude of teachings our faith offers, but will quickly, easily, and joyfully fulfill, and more than fulfill those same teachings. Loving God back is the heart of our whole religion, and I hope that this reminder today allows us all to love our Catholic faith with the lighthearted and ardent joy that makes all virtue easy, and represents the foretaste of heaven’s eternal happiness.