O Lord Thou shalt open my lips and my mouth shall declare Thy praise.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Let Love Burn!

XII Sunday after Pentecost - II Class
Epistle: II Cor. 3:4-9 [The Faith is not about legal requirements, but about love.]
Gospel: Lk. 10:23-37 [The Two Commandments and the Good Samaritan]

You can ask the question, "What does one have to do in order to be a good Catholic?" and immediately get a thousand different answers. Internal modernist corruption aside, that is partly because we have so many laws and so many requirements and so many procedures. People often criticize the Law of Moses and the book of Leviticus for having a array of strict and complicated laws, but I don't see how Canon Law is any simpler. We can follow all the Church's canons and rubrics and laws of every kind to the t, but unless we live fueled by Divine Love, then we are nothing, we are chaff blowing in the wind, we are pharisees. St. Paul famously said, "If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." (I Cor. 13:1)

The entire spiritual life, the entire life of a Catholic, all the complex and extensive rules, canons, and laws are summed up by the two Commandments. First and foremost, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind". This is above and before all other things. We are to love God with our whole being. In the second place, "Love thy neighbor as thyself." This is secondary. This is after loving God. This is to a much lower standard. When we love God, we are to love Him using our whole person, every drop of our being. When we love our neighbor, we are merely to love that person the way we love ourselves. Why this difference? Why are we to love God with far greater intensity than our neighbor? Why are we to love God with far greater priority than our neighbor? God loved us first. Before He created us he loved us (cf. Jer 1:5). God loves us with a Divine sacrificial love. It is a love where you give everything, your entire person and everything you have to take care of the other person. Christ poured out everything of Himself on the cross, giving everything He was and everything He had to take care of His Bride the Church.

This is love: a self-giving and a self-sacrifice for the good of another. Love does not seek good times but rather the good of another. Any idiot can stick with you through good and happy times. Only someone who actually loves you will stay faithful to you through pain and suffering in a miserable life. Love expresses itself through many different means: there is love of bride, love of sister, love of friend, but the greatest is love of God. Why is this the greatest? First and foremost, God loved us first. God gave His entire self on the cross to get us to Heaven. He has given us His love and one of the main characteristics of love is that love wants to be reciprocated. A man's love for his wife moves him to give himself entirely to take care of her, for her greater good, but it also causes him to want her to give herself in return. Love wants to be reciprocated. God loved us first and wants us to return His love. Since His love is so great and infinite, we then owe our whole selves to Him. We would not even exist unless He created us and we cannot survive death unless He allows it. Further, we are not capable of loving unless God teaches us how. When two people are joined by love, that love is a grace from God, His presence between them, pushing them to take care of each other. When you love someone, you are merely looking at them the way God looks at them. At this point God is the absolute highest priority for our lives.

Christ loving His Bride the Church on the cross is the supreme lesson in how to love. He gave Himself to get her to Heaven. That is how we are love ourselves: we do whatever it takes, no matter how unpleasant or unpopular to get ourselves to Heaven. We would be fools beyond all telling to burn infinitely and for all eternity in exchange for a few years or decades of pleasure here in this life. We are to love our neighbor as ourselves. That means we do whatever it takes, no matter how unpleasant or unpopular to get our neighbor to Heaven. If we let our neighbor burn infinitely and for all eternity in exchange for a few years or decades of pleasure here in this life, then we do not care about them. There is no love in that. We are letting them burn, just to make them happy now in this life. That is not love. That is negligence. We are abandoning them. This brings us to the parable of the Good Samaritan. What lesson does this parable teach? It teaches us that all people we encounter are our neighbor. It is not just our family members and loved ones, but also random people we meet on the street. That is what the parable actually means. It means we are to love others even if it isn't convenient. We do whatever we can to help get them to Heaven, just like the Samaritan did whatever he could to get someone to good health-and it wasn't even someone he knew; it was a random person on the street.

This is the life of a good Catholic: loving God, giving everything you are to Him, reciprocating His love for you and then letting that love burn through you in the way you love others, doing whatever it takes, no matter how unpopular, to get them to Heaven. All the legal and canonical obligations all of a sudden aren't burdens anymore. At this point, you want to do them because you love God and by them you are giving yourself to God. Without love of God all those obligations and requirements are medieval torture, but with love of God, they are sweet and delicious.