30th Sunday in Ordinary Time - God As Lover

When we think about law, we don't usually think about love.  The two seem to be very separate and sometimes opposing forces.  The first motive for our obedience to law is usually fear.   Early on we learn that if break the law we get in trouble, and deserve some kind of reprimand from God, from our parents, or from civil authority.   And unfortunately, one of the first things we learn about the law is how not to get caught breaking it.

Most laws seem, on the surface at least, to take away our freedom and make our lives uncomfortable: "Thou shalt not... Do not enter... No trespassing."   We find very little to love in traffic laws, tax laws, and the rules and regulations that govern our work and our play.   The word "law" conjures up images of judges and courts and lawyers and trials... not exactly the language of love!
 
But when Jesus was asked what was the first and greatest of all laws, He said very simply and clearly: Love your God and love your neighbor. For Him, the whole of law is based on these two aspects of love.   So He tells us that law - all law - is, in fact, a matter of love.

The Lord intends that His law should be the model for all human law.   Our lawmakers, both in religious and civil matters, are empowered by God to fashion laws with the common good and welfare in mind, laws that will promote order and harmony among all people.   In the democratic form of government, that power resides in the people.   They elect the men and women who will represent them, enact the laws, and enforce them.   The people should certainly hold these elected officials responsible and answerable   and remove them if they do not serve the common good.

The Church is not a democracy, but it, above every institution, should be governed by the law of love.   The people, who are the Church, no longer directly choose their priests, their bishops or their pope.   But as we rediscover the original and rightful role of the laity in the life of the Church, the process by which persons in the Church are called to the ministry of service and given the power and privilege of governing should be a process that reflects a loving concern for the rights, the well being, the freedom and the happiness of all of its people.  And the laws of the Church, at every level, must never be out of touch with the primary law of love.

There is such a profound, instinctive need in all of us to be loved, to have a sense of our own worth and dignity. On our journey, there are so many times that we are made to feel unlovable. As children, and as teenagers - and even as adults - we are apt to make mistakes; we can be immature, we can act selfish, we can be unreasonable. We are often scolded, blamed, punished. We tend to believe that we are only loveable when we are good and perfect, only when we please others. And we usually carry that sense of unworthiness to our relationship with God.

So many of today's personal and social problems are rooted in our failure to understand God as Lover. We stain and disdain His gifts. We pollute nature. We abuse our bodies, our minds and our spirits. We pervert and misuse the beauty and the power of our sexuality. We shrivel up, become dry and miserable for lack of love. We freeze to death in spirit despite the blazing sun of God's love that is always shining on us.

From the beginning, God used extreme means to show Himself to us as a Lover. He took that stance with His people Israel; He forgave them over and over again; He led them out of slavery into the Promised Land; He reassured them constantly of His faithfulness, of His unchanging love. He did everything He could to prove to them that He wanted them close.

But then He went over the edge. He sent His Son to bring the Transcendent into the very heart of humanity. We should certainly be able to recognize in all of the circumstances of the life of Jesus among us that He is the ultimate proof that God is a Lover!

And everything that Jesus said and did was touched by this overriding concern - to reveal the exquisite, personal, compassionate love of God for each of His children, and for all of His creation. Jesus made it very concrete. He reached out to all, but especially to those who found themselves to be unloved and unlovable... to widows and orphans, to lepers, to the impaired and disabled, to sinners, to the disreputable.

The whole point of both the Old and New Testaments is not to tell us how sinful we are, how weak we are, or how corrupt we can become... not to remind us of a God of wrath and judgment - but to constantly remind us that God's explosion into our lives happened because He couldn't contain Himself - His Love for us was so great. Every episode of God's relationship with mankind, from the Creation story to the Resurrection narratives, point to this fact. True, we do see moments of His anger, His wrath and His Justice, but these are always tempered with Gentleness, Compassion and Comfort.

We have much to learn in terms of love. We need to take ourselves less seriously and His Love for us more seriously. We need no false sense of unworthiness or humility. No one of us is worthy of the Gift that we have received - and I doubt that God expects or wants us to be overwhelmed by it. He just wants to be loved in return.

And this is the "greatest" commandment that Jesus speaks of in the Scriptures: to love God with one's whole heart, soul and being. To do this, we need to be open to that love. We need to discard anything that will disguise it, hide it or hinder it.  But above all, we need to allow ourselves to be loved by Him.

Everything God intended in the Scriptures finds its fulfillment in this command.  This is what Jesus taught on the mountain in Galilee.  This is what his life of obedience to his father and gentle compassion to those in need faithfully mirrored.  And this is what he teaches again and again.

We need to trust Him so passionately that we allow ourselves to fall into His outstretched arms of Love without fear.