Loving God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves

Homily for the Thirtieth Sunday of Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

How do we love God with all our heart, soul and mind? Is it possible to love God above all else? Many people say that as they grow older their relationship with God becomes much more central in their life. Many people find that their faith deepens in the autumn of life, often as a result of suffering. I remember someone admitting to having wasted life before attending my Scripture Course. There is a sense in which we could say that it takes a lifetime of practice to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, to live the first commandment, putting God before all else.

To direct us all our lives to love God with our heart soul and mind, God has given us guidelines, the Ten Commandments. The Commandments are not meant to restrict us, not meant to make life less enjoyable for us, but are meant to make life more enjoyable for us because they save us from the potholes that we could fall into going through life. The Commandments are not to restrict our behavior but show us the values in life to love, the qualities in our personalities to develop for happiness in life.

In the Gospel today Jesus summarized everything into two great commandments,

Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: you must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37-39)

The first three of the Ten Commandments show us how to love God.

  1. I am the Lord your God, you shall not have strange gods before me.

  2. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

  3. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.

The next seven commandments show us how to love our neighbor.

  1. Honor your father and your mother.

  2. You shall not kill.

  3. You shall not commit adultery.

  4. You shall not steal.

  5. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

  6. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.

  7. You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.

Jesus summarized everything into two great commandments,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: you must love your neighbor as yourself. (Matt 22:37-39)

When Jesus summarized the Commandments he told us that what is in our heart is also important, not just the externals. Jesus told us we can offend God even by the way we think. So to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves we have to begin with our thoughts. What way do we think? What are our attitudes? Some people say that even when they do something good they get something out of it for themselves, a bit like job satisfaction, so we can have very mixed motives sometimes. If we do not always think in a very Christian way I believe we can and should take control of our thoughts. We can correct our way of thinking. If we want to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves, if we want to feed our minds with Christian thoughts, we need to cut out unchristian influences. TV, newspapers and the Internet are major means of influencing our thoughts and unfortunately much of the information they carry is not a good influence on our thoughts. So we need to find ways of influencing our thoughts so that we can fill our minds with Christian thoughts. That is why I love the Bible so much. It fills my mind with what is good, it uplifts, whereas a lot of what we could see on TV etc is mind disturbing. I also find the programs on the Catholic TV station, EWTN, most uplifting. If we want to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves, let us feed our minds what Christian helps.

Jesus said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: you must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37-39)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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