Posted on October 23, 2011
I take the liberty of enclosing my homily for today on this topic.
HOMILY 140 2011
All you need is love. The Lennon/McCartney song says it all, what Jesus says in today’s Gospel. When Jesus is challenged by his opponents, as he was last Sunday and is again today, his starting point is “love is all you need.” God first loves us. Last Sunday Jesus held up Caesar’s tiny coin up against the full horizon of all God’s gifts of creation. Caesar can have his tiny due, but what belongs to God is so much more important. What belongs to God is the dedication of one’s whole life and love, seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness, loving God, self, and neighbor. This rendering to God is all about love, not about the mammon of Caesar’s tiny coin.
And again in today’s gospel, an expert in interpretation of the Law tries to trap Jesus, asking which of the current 613 prohibitions and prescriptions of the Law was the greatest. Jesus’s curt and insightful response is “All you need his love,” quoting two passages: “You shall love the Lord your God” (Dt 6:5), and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev19:18). Jesus integrates love of neighbor alongside love of self and love of God. In fact, he insisted that “the whole Law and the prophets [the entire religious tradition] depend on these mmandments.”
God first loves us. God loves us in all of this created world, in all of our own personal giftedness. Yes, “all you need is love” means we must start at home and love ourselves, which may not always be easy in a world where so many people struggle to love and respect even themselves.
How are we to respond to God’s love? Jesus points the way by his compassionate life: “all you need is love” challenges us to lives of compassion. But, as Dostoevsky says in The Brothers Karamazov, love in action can at times be “a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in (romantic) dreams.” Active love is no dream, active love as in Jesus’ passion and death, as well as in our own struggles in tough times of life. But in the end, Jesus’s message remains “love is all you need.” How are we, here and now to live this love?
One way is to listen to the first words of today’s first bible reading. These words from the book of Exodus should jump off of the page and should ring in the ears of Alabamians today. “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourself in the land of Egypt.” This bible passage points quite concretely to one of the challenges of compassion right here and now in Alabama. “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.” God first loves us. God is compassionate. But God also lovingly takes the side of the stranger, the widow, the orphan. What does it mean for us to be compassionate today? The only love we need, all we need is Christ’s compassion, desire, and decision. There are at least three elements to Christ’s compassion:
First, compassion demands that we first notice those in need.(compassion)
Secondly, compassion is a feeling of care an concern for those in need. (desire)
Third, genuine compassion moves us to appropriate action. (decision)
Today’s reading from the book of Exodus points quite concretely to one of the challenges of compassion right here and now in Alabama.What’s so special about aliens, strangers, foreigners, migrants in our midst? Compared to Caesar’s tiny coin, they open us up to the full horizon of God’s universal love; love beyond skin color, love beyond calculation and retribution, love beyond tribe or race, love beyond national boundaries, because ultimately God’s kingdom welcomes all; all persons, all nations are neighbors, not walled-off enemies unworthy of God’s love and our own.
In our Justice for immigrants campaign, our church reminds us that enforcement-only immigration policies are not working. Not only do enforcement-only policies lack compassion, they simply are not working. And the compassionate solution to this is not simply open borders, but a much more thoughtful comprehensive national immigration reform rather than our current patchwork of laws which divide many hard working families, intimidate school children not with compassion but fear. Our Alabama bishops have objected to this law, and some aspects of it have been stayed by the courts. But the long term solution remains illusive. In this context, too, all we need is love: compassionate, comprehensive, loving immigration reform, founded in some fundamentals of our Catholic social teaching, which you can find and take with you in these handouts I’ve placed on the counter at the rear of the chapel. All you need is love, compassionate reverence for
All persons’ right to find opportunities at home
All persons’ right to migrate to support themselves
Nations’ right to control our borders, but not to the point of denying access to the needy from other nations
Refugees’ right to protection
Respect for the human rights and dignity of all, including migrants without documents: As the bishops note, “Regardless of their legal status, migrants, like all persons, possess inherent dignity that should be respected.” This applies to punitive laws, enforcement practices, detention conditions, abuse and neglect, and policies that tear families apart.
Even undocumented workers, often subject to inadequate wages and demeaning conditions in a shadow economy, are entitled to basic human rights in terms of wages and working conditions. Here is a law higher than Caesar’s tiny coin. Immigrants, even ones without documents, do not lose their status as human persons made in God’s image. Demeaning wages, inhuman conditions, meanspirited retribution and the denial of natural human rights assault the dignity and sanctity of the human person.
Yes, nations may need to maintain boundaries, but God’s heart has no borders. Yes, in the end, All we need is love, yes, love is all we need, even the sometimes harsh and dreadful love of the crucified Christ, God’s compassion nailed to a cross for the forgiveness and redemption of all.
Thanks for the comment, Father Ted. It’s good to know there are clergy opposing this law and supporting a more human policy.
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