Fr Thomas’ Homily for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

Love God and Neighbour

To the question “How are you?”, you might answer “I am good”.  Is that the right response?  In my early years in Sydney, one of my parishioners, a retired teacher, used to correct me, saying that the answer to the question, “How are you?” is “I am well, not good”. What he did not realise is that the philosophy of life has changed and it is impacting the way we speak.  We don’t hear many saying  “I am well”anymore.  The standard answer “I am good” may be a small step, but not insignificant.  From it to “anything I do is good” is another step.  “Don’t tell me what I should do” is the principle on which some people operate.  Such an approach to life is considered praiseworthy in our time.

A similar aura seems to surround the scribe who asked Jesus “which is the first of all the commandments”.  The religious Jews recited an important verse from the book of Genesis every day.  It said, “Listen, O Israel, the Lord our God is the Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”.  Some of them literally carried this saying written on a piece of parchment which was then tied on their forehead.  This was a self-centred piety, to propitiate God merely for one’s own benefit.  As a good scribe, the man who asked Jesus about the important commandment was expecting Jesus to praise him for his piety.  Jesus points out to him that to be true to God he also needed to reach out to others.  He needed to move from self-centredness to be other centred.  Quoting from the book of Leviticus, Jesus said, “You must love your neighbour as yourself”.  Do you understand this teaching of Jesus?  If you do, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God”.  Practise this teaching of Jesus and you will enter the Kingdom of God.  Therefore, love God and your neighbour with all your heart, mind, and strength.