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November 25, 2016

Ezekiel has had one heckuva week, but this, in particular, is a very vivid prophecy.  On the surface what do we see?  Bones laying around, coming to life.  That’s fairly unusual.  But the image the prophet is establishing isn’t that God can do all of these things; God is God – he can do as he pleases; of course he can do these things.  But, rather that God is willing to do these things, in fact he is promising that he will do it.  The exiles will once again live in the land of Israel.  Mind you, things are pretty bleak in Babylon right now.  He wants them to take heart, have faith, and know beyond doubt – that God loves them.  “Can these bones come back to life?” “Lord God, you alone know that.”  Of course, they will.  By God’s promise, there is now hope.

And so, I love you.  And you.  And you.  Why?  Because God wills it!  His promise is a promise of restoration, and the only requirement is to have hope.

Along comes the Lord in Matthew; he just took the Sadducees to task and now he is working the Pharisees over.  A scribe wants to test him, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”  Ezekiel prophesies it.  All we need to do is love God, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.  And he’ll be faithful.  He will bring us resurrection – all we have to do is love him back.  That is the great point, isn’t it?  How do we love like God loves us?  So Jesus tells us: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We have had this discussion: Who is my neighbor?  The answer was brought in Luke’s Good Samaritan.  It was found in the Shema, yes, but Jesus gives equal weight to the second: loving our neighbor.  Once again I look to St. Thomas Aquinas.  Love is willing the good of the other as other.  Remember, anyone can love their family member.  And surely, even love their friends.  But how about a stranger?  Wishing good for the other person as an end, not as a means, with no expectation for themselves.  How about an enemy?  Yes!  Talk about no expectation of a return.  That’s love!  Years ago, as the Archdiocese was recovering from the child sex abuse scandal, and the Bankruptcy that was the solution, I heard an Archbishop Vlazny stun the crowd of worshipers at the Cathedral on an Emberday, that in order for the fix to work, we all had to pray for the victims, yes, but also the perpetrators of these heinous acts!  The response, literally, was an exhalation – everyone stunned, letting out their breath.  But he’s right, isn’t he?  That is love.  That is loving like God loves us, with all of our faults.

The Lord adds one more emphasis: The whole law and the prophets depend on these two things.  The law – the Pentateuch – the Torah – and the Book of the Prophets, which make up Jewish Scripture – depend on this.  By saying the second is like the first Jesus gives value to good works: to love God, and to love neighbor.

I recently had a discussion with an atheist friend of mine, and I told him it all boils down to this: Christ compels us to love God, and love our neighbor; two things.  Everything works after that.  He said, but I don’t believe in God, but he does believe in loving other people and doing good, and I told him that’s ok: because by loving others and doing good that is all God wants from us in the first commandment.  You are covered, I told him.

So let us go forth and be known by our love.


Love, Papa

August 19, 2016, Friday, Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel 37: 1-14.  Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord.  I will bring you back from your graves, O my people Israel.

Responsorial – Psalm 107: 1.  Give thanks to the Lord; his love is everlasting.

Matthew 22: 34-40.  You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.

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