Love God with all your heart - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Decrease font size
Increase font size
Print this page
Home > Archbishop > Homilies > Love God with all your heart - Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (C)

Moses said to the people, “Obey the voice of the Lord your God”. This is the opening of our first reading this morning. Obey the voice of the Lord your God.

For the believer, for the Christian, the basic point of orientation for our lives is to do what the Lord has asked of us. Our basic orientation is not what the society around us thinks is acceptable behaviour. We know that sadly our society is abandoning its Christian heritage. More and more it encourages the pursuit of personal desire as an end in itself. It even canonises what we would consider to be seriously morally wrong. For many now decisions on moral matters are based on personal feelings. There is no longer any fundamental moral law to act as a guide and to lay the foundations for the formation of conscience. 

Nor can we allow ourselves to simply be led by what we think is acceptable. We are all influenced by the culture around us. We are all frail individuals. We can easily slide into views which are at variance to the mind and will of God. We need norms, unchanging norms, to guide us.

The reading from the Book of Deuteronomy ends by saying that “the Word is very near to you”. This word is revealed in Sacred Scripture. For us, as Christians, it is to be found in the Gospels in particular. For us, as Catholics, it is to be found in the authoritative teaching of the Church.

So let us now listen to what the Scripture offered to us today in the Gospel reading.

The question is asked of the Lord: “Master what must I do to inherit eternal life?” While St Luke comments that the question was asked as a test, we can also recognise that this is a sincere and searching question. It is a question which we all ask in one way or another: How should I be living? What should be the appropriate moral stance that I adopt? What is the path to heaven?

This is the sort of question a person would ask of one who is recognised as holy and close to God; one whom we believe can offer a satisfactory answer. It is the question we would ask of a saint, as one whom we believe would know the answer. The questioner obviously recognised that the Lord was one who could truly answer this question. The question came from someone who could see that Jesus could offer an answer to this most fundamental of questions: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

We could take a moment to consider how we might frame the question for ourselves: of all that I am doing, of all that I aspire to, of all that I hope for, what will bring me to salvation? How would we imagine the answer?

There is a danger for us as Catholics that we answer such a question by looking at doing good works. In other words, our good actions will gain us a place in heaven. I will attain eternal life with God by the worthiness of my actions.

With this in mind how does the Lord respond to the question?

We note that he turns the question back on the questioner, aware that he is trying to test the Lord. To his credit he answers the question well, quoting from two key statements from the Jewish Torah: “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself”. In this response he is quoting from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

The text from Deuteronomy first speaks of love of God. It is not good works that is the path to eternal life, but love of God. From this love of God will come love of neighbour. The Lord responds to the further question about love of neighbour by offering one of the most engaging and memorable of his parables – the parable of the Good Samaritan.

However, interest in the parable can cause us to overlook the emphasis on love of God with our whole mind, heart, soul and strength. Love of God is the foundation, inspiration and empowering for love of neighbour. Without love of God informing our love of neighbour, it is reduced simply to a humanistic philanthropy.

To love God with all our mind, heart, soul and strength: this is to acknowledge that God is all in all. We exist and are held in being because of the love of God. Our destiny is with God. These days of human life are few and pass quickly. We have a soul which is the eternal dimension of ourselves. We are meant for full and final union with God. Our soul within us longs for the living God. We thirst for things of the spirit, what is physical does not finally matter.

What else is there for us, but to give ourselves over to God as an act of personal love: to give everything of ourselves – our mind, our heart, our soul, our strength – to God, the living God.

Love God with all your heart, mind and strength, and love of neighbour will naturally follow. We will discover as is evidenced in the lives of so many saints that we come to love our neighbour with the love of God. Doing good is not just a human effort but is divinely inspired. Love of God releases love of neighbour.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 9 July 2016