How to love God in four easy steps “You shall love the Lord, your God…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37)

This is another homily written for my homiletics class. This time, it is for the Second Sunday of Easter (Divine Mercy Sunday) in Year B.

Here are the readings for this homily

First Reading Acts 4:32-35
The community of believers was of one heart and mind,
and no one claimed that any of his possessions was his own,
but they had everything in common.
With great power the apostles bore witness
to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus,
and great favor was accorded them all.
There was no needy person among them,
for those who owned property or houses would sell them,
bring the proceeds of the sale,
and put them at the feet of the apostles,
and they were distributed to each according to need.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 118:2-4, 13-15, 22-24
R. (1) Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Let the house of Israel say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let the house of Aaron say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
Let those who fear the LORD say,
“His mercy endures forever.”
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
I was hard pressed and was falling,
but the LORD helped me.
My strength and my courage is the LORD,
and he has been my savior.
The joyful shout of victory
in the tents of the just:
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The stone which the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone.
By the LORD has this been done;
it is wonderful in our eyes.
This is the day the LORD has made;
let us be glad and rejoice in it.
R. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, his love is everlasting.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Second Reading 1 Jn 5:1-6
Beloved:
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is begotten by God,
and everyone who loves the Father
loves also the one begotten by him.
In this way we know that we love the children of God
when we love God and obey his commandments.
For the love of God is this,
that we keep his commandments.
And his commandments are not burdensome,
for whoever is begotten by God conquers the world.
And the victory that conquers the world is our faith.
Who indeed is the victor over the world
but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

This is the one who came through water and blood, Jesus Christ,
not by water alone, but by water and blood.
The Spirit is the one that testifies,
and the Spirit is truth.

Gospel Jn 20:19-31
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews,
Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But he said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples
that are not written in this book.
But these are written that you may come to believe
that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,
and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

The greatest commandment is this: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. The second is like to it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37, 39) The whole Christian life can be summed up like this. Today, Divine Mercy Sunday, we hear three difference applications or expressions of this rule of life.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart. I want to propose to you that this is love with our wills. We must desire nothing more than God. Each earthly thing we desire should be directed to God, for what do we own or earn that we have not received from Him? When the gifts are prepared for the sacrifice in a few minutes, you will here me pray to God, “Through you, we have received the bread [or wine] we offer you.” If, indeed, all we have comes from God, then we must turn all of our goods and passions to the glory of God. When we want something, we must step back and look at our desire; will this bring me closer to the Lord, or draw me away from Him? If we want something that will draw us away, no matter how much we want it, we must remember that the greatest good for which we are created is God. He must be the focus of every desire we have.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your soul. The soul is what makes the body alive. Without our souls we are just dead bodies, corpses. It is the soul that makes us able to do — anything. So, if we are to love God with all our soul, we are to do all we do to the greater glory of God. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to give up your current profession or goals and become a priest or brother or sister. God desires you — in your life today — to seek and show His holiness. That is why “the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus.” That is why Jesus could say to the apostles in the upper room, “as the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21) And for what was Jesus sent? To spread the good news; to heal souls and bodies; to forgive sins. So, he gave the authority to his apostles, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” (Jn 20:23) From this moment, the Sacrament of Reconciliation was available from the Church. How do we know we love God with all our soul? We keep His commandments and love our neighbor.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your mind. Jesus added this one anew; it was not part of the Law of Deuteronomy he was citing like those first two. This is why I think Thomas sometimes gets a bad rap. All Thomas did was recognize how extraordinary the claim made by the other 10 was. When is the last time you saw someone bodily rise from the dead? God doesn’t want mere blind mindless faith from us. If that were the case, I would not have spent 6 ½ years in seminary. The last 2000 years of theological inquiry would have been so much wasted time. When your little child looks at your and keeps asking the question, “Why?” he is not just being intransigent; he is asking the most natural of human questions. We naturally seek to understand. Thomas was just acting in a way natural to man. I don’t want to push that too far, though. Jesus goes on to tell him, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe.” (Jn 20:29) It is a great challenge of Christian life to constantly seek and strike that balance between faith and reason. We must also remember that we have the guidance of the Church to make sure that our answer at the end of the path of reason is correct. Jesus promised the Church that protection.

The second is like to it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Notice, Jesus did not say the second command was similar or along the same lines or anything like that. He said the second command is “like to it,” that is, the same. The apostle John tells us the same today: “In this way, we know that we love the children of god when we love God and obey his commandments.” (1Jn 5:2) Love of neighbor, love of God, and obedience to God are all one and the same.

We see an example of this in the early Church, too. Notice, we are told that, “the community of believers was of one heart and mind…There was no needy person among them.” (Acts 4:32, 34) They all made sure the needs of each were met. I am not telling you that you have to go join a commune. You don’t have to sell all you own to give it to the Church or the needy (unless God’s personal call to you is to do that). At the same time, if we ignore the needs of those less fortunate than ourselves, if we just label them as lazy or drunks or addicts or somehow undeserving, even if we see to it that they hear the Gospel but refuse to expend any effort to see to their physical needs, can we really say we love God? Jesus doesn’t thinks so. John and James each reject such a life in their letters. Even in the whole of the Old Testament, God expected us to take care of the poor, the widow, the homeless. I think it was well said by a preacher I once heard: “How can we worship a homeless man on Sunday, then ignore one on Monday?”

So, in short, what does the Christian life look like? How can we measure how well we live as Christians, as Little Christs?
We love God with all our hearts: all our desire is for Him.
We love God with all our souls: every action is to His glory.
We love God with all our minds: we always seek to delve deeper into the mysteries of faith.
We love our neighbor as ourselves: We make sure that we strive to meet the needs of all.

If we do these, we say with our tongues and our lives, “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28) We show that we have come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and, through this belief, lived every day of our lives, we will have life in His name.

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