31 Ordinary: Oct. 29/30, 2022
We picked up a good piece of wisdom about God in our first reading from the Old Testament Book of Wisdom:
“God loves all things that are / and loathes nothing which God has made.”
When I was a lot younger than I am now – there was a popular button that we all thought was cool to wear which simply said: “God loves me because God does not make junk.”
St. John, when he writes his first of three letters is a bit more blunt: God is Love.
And so when we try to talk about or describe God we often do so by just quoting St. John: God is LOVE. That’s who we say God is – God is love not as a sideline or in a complimentary way – but in God’s very essence –
God’s very being — it’s who God is: God is love and consequently God loves all things that are / and loathes nothing which God has made.
But saying that – and believing that —are two very different things.
Most of us, if asked what the hardest thing to believe regarding our faith, would probably answers the incarnation: how can Jesus be both God and man at the same time? Or the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist: still looks like bread and wine to me - how can it be the Body and Blood of Christ? Or possible Reconciliation: can’t I just confess my sins directly to God?
Yet - believing that God loves every single thing that God created – every rock, every star, every plant, every animal — and especially every person – I think can be one of the hardest things we will be asked to accept and embrace in our faith – it’s easy to say – but it isn’t so easy to believe – because then we have to have a profound respect and reverence for each and everything and each and everyone. . .
Much easier to believe that Jesus is both God and man – because that doesn’t impact our day to day to life as much as truly believing:
God loves all things that are / and loathes nothing which God has made.
Yet if we don’t believe this - and put it into practice by what we do every day – we might as well forget about believing everything else we are called to believe.
Because once we start saying that God loves some of us more than others – we have stopped allowing God to shape and guide our hearts – and have instead simply created a God we want – a God who is on OUR side, but not necessarily on the side of everyone else. THAT is not God who is love – it might be the god of ancient Greeks or Romans – but not certainly the God we are called to believe in.
And so belief in a God who loves all God has created is an essential, fundamental step of faith – the step right after accepting belief in God at all.
Once we believe in God we must do our best to have some idea of who God is, what God is like, and what God is NOT like. And for we Christians - for we who are disciples of Jesus – it starts with love.
God IS love - in the most complete, profound, and unconditional way.
But it doesn’t end there. . . Once we get to that point, once we start believing and accepting that God loves all of us equally – then guess what we need to do???
If God loves everyone –doesn’t that mean that we are called to love everyone also? Isn’t that the expectation – the command – the invitation – to love the people God loves??
And this is exactly where we usually fall flat on our faces. . . we come up with all kinds of excuses – for why we don’t REALLY have to love absolutely everyone – certainly not those who hurt us, who don’t like us, who want to take advantage of us, who have no interest in loving us in return . . .
Of course this is nothing new. We just heard the story about Jesus befriending the chief tax collector, Zacchaeus.
The fact that Zaccaeus was a tax collector meant he worked for the Romans – and therefore would be despised by the average person in the street.
And when Jesus decided to dine with him – even the Jewish community was shocked and angered. How could he possible do that – is what most of them thought. . .
Well, because there never was, nor will there ever be – anyone who Jesus did not or will not love.
And God wants us to love the people God loves. God wants us to care about the people God cares about.
God wants us to show compassion to the people God shows compassion to – to forgive the ones God forgives.
Can we get on board with that? Can we truly love indiscriminately, unconditionally, and relentlessly? Or will we alway love in a qualified sort of way –one in which we love whom WE want, when WE want, and how WE want??
Jesus showed kindness to Zacchaeus, to a man others were unwilling to show kindness to – and Zacchaeus was never the same again.
And most likely those close to Zacchaeus – his family and tax collector friends – were never the same again.
And the people who simply heard what Jesus did were probably never the same again. Love can do that. It can have a ripple effect in ourselves and in the lives of those around us – and that little ripple has the power to change the world!
That’s the power of love – the power to transform absolutely everything.
So we need to stop trying to figure out who is “worthy” of our love – and just love. Because God loves all things that are / and loathes nothing which God has made. And we are called to be like God. And yes, maybe we never achieve perfection – but at least we try. Better to burn out trying – than to rust out by doing nothing!
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