30th Sunday Reflection: Loneliness and Death
Franciscan Reflections From The Hermitage – 30th Sunday In Ordinary Time Year A – Loneliness and Death – (Matthew 22:34-50)
“You have heard that it was said…But I say to you…” (Matt 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43). Jesus raises the horizon of our understanding and sets the ultimate standard of Love.
Love is the answer, love is always the answer. Do we find community, communion, and compassion? God’s love is present!
BUT … Do we find relationships that are bereft of compassion… superficial, possessive, controlling, abusive, devious? There we will find distorted love, disordered love, idolatrous love, and great danger… for this is the way that always leads to betrayal and death.
“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
How important that we get them right because it is so easy to get them wrong! To put things in the wrong order… to have disordered love, this is the meaning of idolatry. We get our relationships wrong all too easily and cause, thereby, significant disorder in our own lives, and in the lives of those who form our relationship network.
When power, narcissism, and control take priority to boost our image, success, popularity, and fame. When posterity becomes dominant, chasing youthfulness, strength, vibrancy, and even health. When prosperity and self-interest become the measure of our relationships. When we sacrifice our humanity and the humanity of others in the name of ideology, progress, the institute, religion, or politics. When we sacrifice our world, nature, and other species for our own progress. When we seek diversions, distractions, and opiates to dull our sense of vulnerability that accompanies Love.
All of these are idols that will ultimately betray us, for they can never be eternal, absolute, or universal… they will change, pass away, leave us, abandon us … and betray us. They will break and whither our hearts, leaving us hopeless and alone. As Scripture warns us… this is a condition that leads to death.
Our overemphasis on sin and redemption breeds loneliness, indifference, and fear. Fear abounds when religion constructs ideologies of sin and salvation in preference to stories of blessing, goodness, empowerment, creativity, justice, and joy. The ancient fathers of the church warn that fear is so powerful an emotion, it renders compassion impossible.
Made in the image of a Trinitarian God, we are made to be in relationship. It is said that we are who we are because of whom we love and whom we are loved by. A person in relationship is a human person… a person alone, without a sense of loving or being loved, is only a human being… a human who merely exists.
We are made for love. Without love, human life loses its meaning and becomes alienated which gives birth to the words: I get so lonely, I could die. How important then to listen carefully to Jesus’ words today: You must love… They are framed as a command but are an analysis of what gives human life its profound significance.
The first three chapters of the book of Genesis show that in the beginning, from the moment of our creation, God established us in four relationships. These relationships are part of the very substance of our human lives, our relationship with God, with ourselves, with others, and with the natural world.
These four relationships shape the very path we must walk to reach our destiny. It is in our relationship to God, to our own self, to others, and to the natural world, that we now live out our daily lives as disciples of the Lord.
You must love the Lord your God … this is the greatest and the first commandment; why? Why start with God as our source of reference? For God to be God there are certain prerequisites, certain fundamentals and attributes that must be intrinsic to God’s nature. Therefore, we have God’s attributes as of the source of all eternal being, of goodness, of relationship, of Truth, and thus of Love itself.
To get the order of our Love relationships right is to bring about the ‘order of God’s love’. St Ignatius sometimes used this beautiful phrase. It is an order which brings peace, life, health, and fruitfulness.
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