LOVING GOD IN ONE ANOTHER

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30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A.

{Exo. 22:20-26; I Thess. 1:5-10; Matt. 22:34-40}

Dear friends in Christ, Love is the essence of any true religion. A committed love of God and neighbour defines the Christian religion. According to the Evangelist John, “If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen ((1 John 4:20).

Jesus teaches that the essence of life is living in relationship, which consists of loving relationship with God and with people. For the Pharisees the love of law overshadowed the law of love.  It is this kind of wrong understanding that made a Pharisee and doctor of the Law to ask Jesus: Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” In Judeo-Christian teachings, there are two types of relationships: The Vertical which is God to Man and Man to God and then the Horizontal which is man to man.

On this 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – A, we are presented with this all important message from (Mt 22:34-40). Matthew the Evangelist recounts that the Pharisees assemble in order to put Jesus to the test. One of them, a doctor of the Law, asks him this question: “Teacher, which one is the great commandment in the law?” (v. 36). It is an insidious, sinister but subtle question, because more than 600 precepts are mentioned in the Law of Moses. How should the great commandment be distinguished among these? But Jesus responds without hesitation: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind”. And he adds: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (vv. 37, 39).

From this answer it is clear that Jesus did not mean to abolish or despise what the Torah (law) and the Prophets prescribe. He simply summarised the Ten Commandments into love of God and love of neighbour.

Looking closely at the Ten Commandments, one would discover that the first three have to do with the human person’s relationship with God and the rest of the seven have to do with relationship between human beings. Laws are not bad in themselves and Psalm 119 rightly describes law as a path, a lamp, and as a guide leading to God. Even though the law is essentially a roadmap, we must not forget that it is a guide and not a god. As such for a law to be considered good: it should be salvific, redemptive, reasonable and for the good of the person or the common good. Ours is a covenant of Love.

In responding to those Pharisees who question him, Jesus also tries to help them put their religiosity in order, to distinguish what truly matters from what is less important. Jesus says: “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt. 22:40). They are the most important, and the others depend on these two. And Jesus lived his life precisely in this way: preaching and practicing what truly matters and is essential, namely, love. Love gives impulse and fruitfulness to life and to the journey of life: without love, both life and faith remain sterile.

Dear brothers and Sisters, in summarizing the commandments Jesus addresses two erroneous approaches to love:

  1. An obsession of or with the love of God, which excludes other people
  2. When people speak about their commitment to loving other people, but failing to mention or acknowledge God, who is the source and fountain of love.

True Love bear three integral marks: beyond mere feelings it is a commitment, devotion and must be intentional. Love is a fire that consumes (Song of Solomon 8:6) and total commitment to love makes a lover to appear foolish and that is why a well-known proverb says, “You cannot love and be wise.”

Dear friends, our first reading today, Exodus 22 mentions a set of people who suffer discrimination and are despised by the society and these people include aliens (foreigners, strangers), widows and orphans and we must be careful how we treat this people. Surprisingly too, a neighbour is also counted among the despised. The neighbor is not just the one who lives next door, but a neighbor is also someone who is vulnerable, unloved, uncared for, despised, and forsaken.

CALL TO ACTION

Brothers and Sisters, in 2015, the Global Attitudes Survey published a data ranking this country, Nigeria as 9th amongst the 40 most Religious Countries in the world with Ethiopia topping the chats. It is beautiful to be religious it beautiful but it is worst when religious people are godless and that is the fate of many of us, Nigerians.

Similarly, on January 23rd 2020, in a survey data published by the Global Corruption Index and Transparency International, Nigeria ranked 146th most corrupt country in the World, stepping down from her 144th position in the world. And currently 4th most corrupt in West Africa and holding the 15th position in Africa. We are gradually drifting into becoming a godless nation and the reason is clear. Our religiosity is lame, very superficial, shallow, unspiritual and not from the heart.

We are at stage in our national history where the struggle for good governance, and the establishment of good structures has been called for through protest. That will be possible only when we put love in action which is the foundation of a true religion and a truly religious nation. The protest in its third week took a turn with the brutal killings of innocent Nigerians in different parts of the country and worst of all, in Lagos, precisely at the Lekki Toll by Arm Military persons as the video futtage have shown. The Military has come to deny this fact and termed it “photoshopped”.

In the same country, and in about our 8-9th month of battling with the covid-19, different ware houses are being uncovered and looted by hungry and angry Nigerians. Personally, it is difficult for me and many of us to frown at such looting of the ware houses so far in: Lagos, Ondo, Kwara, Cross River etc.

But first, let it be clear that violence or stealing and theft in any form is not to be supported. Again, the wanton destruction of properties and looting of businesses whether private or public or government owned is not encouraged as well. As such, no one is or would be happy about the looting of warehouses either. The looting is condemned in all front.

But let us pause and ask? What did hungry Nigerians find when they broke the doors of these warehouses opened? Palliatives meant for Nigerians. Did the palliatives get to Nigerians? NO. Are the palliatives been currently shared as expected? NO. But one sign is clear, these Palliatives may never have gotten to Nigerians. At least not as palliatives but something else…And even the tiny fraction of “us” who would have been lucky to get them would have probably only gotten them days after their expiration. Or come 2022 0r 2023, these palliatives will start surfacing after repackaging as campaign packages. My brothers and sisters, the truth remains the truth and it is received according to the mode and disposition of the hearers both here and in the upper quarters. Let it sink down to us all that our government and many of our leaders have traded with us for long on lies and deception.  True love not thread of deceit, lies and corruption at any level but at our level or on the corridors of powers.

Most of us are frustrated with the lies of the elites. The Lagos State Government issued a statement claiming that the “proposed” distribution was interrupted by the protests. It is difficult to believe that. This is eight months into the pandemic, and most Nigerians are yet to get any support from their government, and you expect us to believe that these treasures stored would somehow get to them? All that most Nigerians have received have been nothing but “audio” palliatives.

For those of you who stumbled over the many clips like myself, did you also observe that people did not fight over them?  The palliative items were so many that people didn’t even bother to fight over them. They had time for pictures and videos. Most people are amazed about how so much was stored in warehouses across the country while most Nigerians continue to languish in poverty and misery. Many Nigerian leaders are heartless, evil, wicked, and demonic. How do they sleep at night? Thanks to the few honest ones.

The Morality of their action is questionable but the fact remains that the palliatives are ultimately meant for the poor. If this is the case, then the poor have only taken what is rightfully theirs but have done this the WRONG WAY. The inscription on the pack clearly indicates NOT FOR SALE. So, the owners of these warehouses cannot claim to have suffered any loss.

But again, we are our own problems as well, there are perhaps a few persons who invaded these storehouses out of sheer greed, the overwhelming majority are certainly the poor and the needy. Thankfully, nobody was killed or injured in the process. Rather, this time around we saw even uniformed men also scampering for their share.

When things like this happen, so many people are tempted to see it as – “a sign of God fighting for the poor; God directing street prophets to where their blessings are stashed away to rot. God’s peace in the peaceful distribution that followed. Such thinking might be wrong, I admit. But it is definitely not out of place to remember Proverbs 11: 26: “People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.” The Holy Quran also condemns the evil of hoarding while people around are suffering. “According to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), somebody who hoards foods or other goods for forty days will be prohibited from entering Jannah.”

Quran: 9.35: On that day, it will be heated in the fire of Hell and, therewith, their foreheads and their sides and their backs will be branded  “This is the treasure which you hoarded up for yourselves; taste now what you were busy hoarding!”

This is no suggestion or approval. The Point is, we must not deny the poor, widow, our staff, maids, assistants, workers and hungry what is their due, for if we do and when a slight opportunity presents itself, they will cease it.

The opening words of our reflection therefore become very necessary: Love is the essence of any true religion. A committed love of God and neighbour defines the Christian religion. According to the Evangelist John, “If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen ((1 John 4:20).

 


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