10-29-2017 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Oct 30, 2017
30th Sunday in OT / A / 2017 / Love Commandment
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
I know a couple, a married couple, who are kind of the "odd couple." They live in Eastern Oregon, on a ranch. Each is very different from the other. They met as students at Oregon State—he from a ranch in southeast Oregon, she from a wealthy family in San Francisco. He liked rodeos and football and hunting and camping. She liked music, fine arts, museums, high fashion, sorority activities, and so on.
I was the parochial vicar in Corvallis at the time, the early 80’s, and they came to me for pre-marriage counseling. I always begin my sessions by asking each party to tell me about themselves. She was very articulate, about herself, her family, her love of fine things. He was not very articulate, but he was clear that he loved life on the ranch, and all that came with it. In fact, that is where they planned to live after their marriage: on a ranch.
I had my doubts about this couple, and their marriage—they were so different! Would she be happy on the ranch? Would he feel uncomfortable with her family? When I raised the question with them, they both laughed, and they said, "That’s what everyone says!" And so I asked them how they responded to such questions. And they said, "We love each other, and we will learn to love what each of us loves."
About 20 years later, I ran into this couple in downtown Portland. We recognized each other, and we quickly caught up on our lives. Naturally, I asked how everything worked out. They were spending a weekend in Portland, and they were planning to go to the symphony that evening. I looked at the guy, a little puzzled. He knew my question, and he said, "I love what she loves." And she looked at me, and said, "And I love what he loves."
All of that is a long introduction to our magnificent Gospel today: the Love Commandment. As familiar as we are with the Love Commandment, we need to hear it
over and over and over again. It should set the tone and pattern for our entire lives. We should have it written not only on our hearts but in every room of our homes. To remind us. To remind us of what is important. To remind us that our lives must be centered on love—love of God and love of neighbor.
The first part of the Love Commandment—that we should love God above all things—is neither surprising nor controversial. We should direct all our energy towards the highest Good, which is God, the creator of all things. God is that which is True, and Beautiful, and Perfect, and the Source of all life—so, of course, I should direct all my being towards God.
It seems obvious, but maybe not so much. How much energy do we expend directing our lives toward power, and glory, and pleasure, and work, and a host of other things—is there any room for God? Thus, our Gospel today is a good reminder to refocus our energy towards the one in whom we "live and move and have our being."
But what about the second part of the Love Commandment—what is that all about? The question given to Jesus did not ask for two commandments—it asked for one, the "greatest."
And maybe it is only one—and here we need to think of our eastern Oregon couple: "I love what you love." If I love God, I love what God loves. And God loves all that God created. God loved creation into being—God loved us into being—because God is love. So, if we love God, we love everything that God loves. To love God means that we love our neighbor.
Like our Eastern Oregon ranching couple, "I love what she loves; I love what he loves."
And we love what God loves. And that is the greatest of all the commandments.