My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
The words of Jesus that we just heard in our Gospel passage this morning are very familiar to us, we know them very well. We have all heard these words many times. For many of us, we’ve heard this teaching since we were little children:
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind. …
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
It is, indeed, a beautiful commandment. A beautiful vision. The vision of love. And we know that all the commandments of God, all the teachings of the prophets, all the teachings of our Christian faith — everything comes down to this one simple word. Love.
Jesus is giving us today a whole program for living. He’s telling us that love is the whole way of life for us.
But obviously the question for all of us is, what does this commandment mean in our lives?
And I think we all know that Christian love is more than feelings and emotions. It’s more than words, just talking about things and having good intentions. Christian love is not just an abstract concept or a good idea. Christian love, as we all know, must be real and concrete. Love is an “action word.” It means we have to “do” something.
And that’s what we heard in our first reading this morning.
God tells us in this passage from the Book of Exodus, first reading of today’s Mass, that love means having compassion for those who are weak and those who are vulnerable.
It means showing compassion for real people, with real troubles and real needs. Widows and orphans, immigrants and refugees. The poor.
Love means serving all those people who need our help. It means, as we all know, feeding the hungry, giving clothes to the naked. Love heals the sick and comforts the dying.
I was watching the preview of a movie that’s going to come out next February. The title of the movie is Little Boy. And part of the movie is the boy wants —it’s about a war — and the boy wants his father to come back from the war. And he goes to talk to the priest, and the priest gives this list of things that he’s supposed to do in order to get his father back.
And this list of things is the works of mercy. So I’m not going to tell you more about the movie because then I’m going to spoil it for you. But it’s beautiful. That’s what Christian life with real love is all about, the works of mercy.
And that’s something that is very beautiful about our local Church — here at the Cathedral and throughout the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
We really are a Church of charity and a people of compassion who are dedicated to charity, justice and good works.
I am amazed every day to see all the good works, all the people we are helping, all the lives that we are changing — in our schools, in our parishes, our charities and in our neighborhoods. In all the little ways that we are helping people in our families and in our communities.
So, my dear brothers and sisters, we really need to continue to live the commandment of Jesus. The commandment of loving in concrete ways — wherever people are suffering in our city, wherever people are vulnerable and hurting.We have to be there!
We have to proclaim the Gospel of love with our lives. And one way of showing our love that I have been talking a lot about it lately is the family.
Actually this week I wrote a column for, as I do every week, for the Tidings. And the title of the column is The Gospel of the Family. In the column, I’m talking about the Synod of the Bishops — Extraordinary Synod of the Bishops that the Pope Francis called — it finished just a few weeks ago. And it was about how to minister to the family and how to support the family with all the challenges that we are facing in our contemporary culture.
And I think that we all can agree that the family is so important for all of us. For the Church. For our society. Because as Catholics, we believe that marriage and the family are a “domestic church” and it is there — in the family —where we learn to love and be loved.
So part of the way of love for us, is to keep looking for new ways and new ministries to support all the good families we have in our parishes and schools. Because all of that wonderful work of love that we are doing all over the Archdiocese starts in our families, in our domestic churches.
So we need to strengthen good families and lift them up as a model to others, especially to young people. We need to show our young people how beautiful it is to be married and to start a family — how beautiful it is to share in God’s plan for humanity.
We also need to reach out in love and understanding to care for those who are struggling in family situations that are complicated. Family life, as you all know, is not easy. There is no perfect family, as we all know, thinking of our own families.
But it is, indeed, God’s plan for humanity. And in the middle of those challenges that we all have, there is the beauty of doing God’s will. Especially learning how to love and what it means to be loved.
So my dear brothers and sisters, we need to continue trying to learn how to love. This beautiful way of love that Jesus commands us today. The love that is the secret of life and the way of real happiness.
And St. Paul, in today’s second reading, tells us just how to do that— learning more and more how to love. He tells us this:
You became imitators of us and of the Lord …
so that you became a model for all the believers.
This is how we “do” it, becoming imitators of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is how we learn to love. We do it by becoming imitators of Jesus Christ.
Because Jesus is the One who show us the way of love.
In Jesus, we see the attitudes and actions of a man who loves God with all his human heart and human strength and who loves his neighbors with a love that comes to serve and not to be served. To the point of giving his life for each one of us. That’s real love.
So we need to continue to look to Jesus. We need to follow Jesus closely. We need to live according to his commandments and follow the model of his deeds. That’s our Christian life. Life is a life of joy and imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Bringing to the people around us the beauty of God’s love for each one of them.
So this week, as we continue to reflect on the first and most important commandment, loving God and loving one another — let us start doing it in our own families, in our places of work, in the communities where we are. Loving God and loving those around us,
in our work and in our family life, let’s keep working to grow in love — our love for God and our love for those around us.
And let’s ask Mary, our Blessed Mother for her intercession to help us, as she does always, to live the commandment of love in our lives in a practical and concrete way. And may she help each one of us this week to rediscover how beautiful it is to live by this beautiful commandment to love God and to love one another.
1. Readings (Thirieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A): Exod. 22:20-26; Ps. 18:2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thess. 1:5c-10; Matt. 22:34-40.