Deacon Michael's Homily for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time October 31, 2021

Here's my homily for the 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time reflecting "the law" and "love".

You can find the readings on which this homily is based linked HERE

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It is trendy these days to be critical of looking at things in a “binary” way

...which is a way of categorizing and seeing things as either, this way or that, one thing or the other, black or white.

These critics point out that life is lived on the greyscale, on its many and varied points in between, that life just often isn’t “A” or “B”.  

This approach can offer important insights into the complexity of life and how to make sense of things.

Getting overly focused on either “A” or “B” can blind us to how “A” and “B” are related 

...and work together to result in “C” 

....which is quite often the essential point. 

You can see this at play in the way many Christians talk about the “law”, and “love” as they try to make sense of our faith and what it asks of us.

For some, to speak in terms of “thou shalt not” is unloving, or even cruel

...while for others compliance with the rules seems to be all that really matters. 

Each approach seems to think that love and the law are opposites.

But, this just isn’t the case, especially when you look at how these are dealt with in Scripture.

The Israelites looked at the law and the covenant as God’s gift to them, a sign of God’s love for them, giving them direction and guidance as to how to live as God calls them.

In Matthew’s Gospel Jesus admonishes us not to think that he had come to abolish the law

...but to fulfill it, offering that the law will endure until heaven and earth pass away.

Saint Paul, a former Pharisee, writing to his friends in Rome observes that now matter how great our sin, or transgression of the law may be, God's grace is greater

...and to the notion that maybe we should persist in these transgressions all the more, more sin more grace after all,

...his response was an exasperated sounding “absolutely not”.

...admonishing us to die to our sins, not wallow in them.

So, no breaks from the law from either Jesus or Paul it seems. Pretty clear.

Were they “unloving” or “cruel”? 

Well...hardly.

For them the law had value and a proper place, telling us how we ought not live

...but hasn’t the power to help us in how we ought to live.

We shouldn’t be living lower than the law, because we are called to live higher than it, beyond it, in a place where the law and love converge.

Which, long way round, brings us to today’s Gospel reading.

In response to a question about the law Jesus tells a scribe that loving God, and our neighbor as ourselves

...sums up all of the law

...what the law as a whole works toward and points to.

The young scribe seconds the motion, even offering that it is worth more than all the sacrifices of  the Temple.

Jesus’ response is positive, yet ambiguous, offering that the young man is ‘not far” from the Kingdom of God.

He says “close”, “almost”.

So what’s missing? 

What’s missing is Jesus own commandment to us, which it to “love one another as I have loved you”

...which is different from “love your neighbor as yourself”

...it’s beyond it.

Loving our neighbor as another self is kind of an “even-Steven” proposition, 

...whereas the love Jesus had for his friends was greater, he loved them more than they loved him

...it was a sacrifice, an offering.

So we are called to love God above all things and each other as Christ loved us, even our enemies. 

That’s how we would sum it all up today.

The law can tell us what is good, warn us of what is evil, like the guardrails that keep us on the road and out of the ditch

...but it can't help us live the way the Lord asks us, set us right with God.

That is for God's grace and the Divine Mercy, and our faith in Jesus Christ

...which free us to love one another as he loves us

...which is for Christians the new and greatest commandment

...completing what the law and prophets can only point to.