Friday, July 12, 2013

Homily 15th Sunday Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily 15th Sunday Year C: Michael U. Udoekpo
 Readings: Deut 30:10-14; Ps 69:14,17,30-34,36-37;or Ps 19:8-11; Col 1:15-20 and Luke 10:25-37.

God’s Limitless Love is Near Us (GLLNU)

On July 5th, 2013 the Holy Father, Pope Francis released a new Encyclical Letter, Lumen Fidei- the Light of Faith. Part of this 4 chapter Letter touches on today’s Bible lessons: that, Faith in God is expressed through Love.

 In paragraph (n. 4), of Lumen Fidei, Pope Francis talks about faith as a light to be discovered. He says, “Faith is born of an encounter with the living God who calls us and reveals his love, a love which precedes us and upon which we can lean for security and for building our lives. Transformed by this love, we gain fresh vision, new eyes to see” what God has done for us and what he will continue to do for us.

Imagine yourself being Abraham, our father in faith, or Moses who led Israel through that long journey in the wilderness. One of his challenges was to constantly let Israel know that God is not only near them, but he constantly loves them from creation and carries them through the ups and downs of life. All that God requires of Israel is faith, trusting in God, acknowledging his omnipotence, omniscience, keeping his precepts, including the 10 commandments, and reciprocating God’s love by reaching out to their neighbors charitably.

For Moses (Deut 30:10-14), what God has done for Israel/us or who God is not so difficult to perceive. It is not too mysterious, or above us, or as if someone had to ascend to heaven and bring it down to us. It is not far from us to see. Think of the oxygen we breath, the mountain we climb, the oceans we fish from and ride our boats and ships, the beaches we enjoy during the summer, the moon, the sky, the stars, the gardens, trees, the nature- the gift of life, family and properties; the technology God has bless our this century with, the gift of one another, the roof over our heads, our jobs, the security we have, in spite of threats of war and terrorism etc.

 This is what Saint Paul means in the Second reading when he says, “all things were created through him and for him, visible and invisible” (Col 1:15-20). Note the language, “all things” not “few things” or “some things.” God’s love is universal. It is not selective. It is not for the few, some, men, some women, some children, but for all men, all women and all children. How do we respond to God’s limitless love? This is a multimillion dollar question. Apart from Jesus' answer to the lawyer in today's Gospel, 1 John 4:19  also presents excellent and  straightforward answer on how we are to respond to God's love.

In 1 John 4:19 we read, “We love because God first loved us.”  In other words, we are all called to love limitlessly since God has first limitlessly loved us.

Our Lord Jesus Christ puts this well in his parabolic response to the lawyer who went tempting him with the question, “what must I do to inherit the Kingdom of Christ? What must I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 10:25-37). Both Jesus and the lawyer were all Jewish. They were familiar with  the Book of the Deuteronomy which emphasis love of God and love of one’s neighbor (6:5). They were familiar with what Moses reminded Israel of in the first reading of today. But the difference between Jesus understanding of the law and the attorney is on the interpretation of who is one’s neighbor or to what limits is God’s love. Is God’s love, charity, fundamental human rights measured by distance or geography, parish, diocese, county, local government, state, and nation, continent, weather condition or race?

The answer is a big “No”. For Christ what makes us neighbors is our generous response to people we meet on the way no matter their hair style, accent, color or race and gender. The Samaritan who responded to the need of this robbery victim was supposed to be a Samaritan of the North, who has had a long standing disagreement with the Jews in the South.

I am sure you would also recall Jesus' disciples' expression of shock when they saw their Master chat and exchange a cup of cold water with the Samaritan Woman in John chapter 4. These were Disciples of Christ!

Any of us can fall a victim of selective love, omission or negligence, or failure to share our blessings with our neighbors, the poor, the aged and the needy. Some ministers can refuse to bring communion to the dying or visit the sick or show compassion and mercy to the afflicted. While others can simply remain insensitive to the needs of their flock. This is true in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Those who walked pass the victim were those the society would have morally looked onto: the Priests and the Levites. They were called to be shepherd, custodians of mercy and compassion (Jer 23; Ezek 34 and John 10).

I am sure you may have heard this story before. It has been told in different forms and styles of a high ranking clergy, on a journey. Quite high ranking and had a driver. He came across an accident scene on the way. Kind enough he pulled by and then noticed that the victims critically needed prayers and some last blessings. He looked around, reacted in a loud voice, "Is there no priest around here to give these dying victims at least some final blessings and anointing." Meanwhile, he completely and insensitively forgot that  himself was a priest!

As Pope Francis affirms, in Lumen Fidei, the Love of God precedes us. It is limitless. It is universal. With faith we want to lean on it for peace and security. It beams from faith. May this love gives us new vision, new light and fresh eyes of looking at things and our fellow humans, so that we may go out there and be merciful and compassionate without limit, to anyone, and to everyone we meet on our ways- homes, schools, and churches, private and public places? How we love is an expression of the depth of our Faith.