WEEKDAY HOMILY WEEK 23 05 – Year I
Living The Great Commandment through Self-awareness
(1 Tim 1:1-14; Ps 16; Lk 6:39-42)
The readings today remind me of one of the most basic teachings of the bible: the Great Commandment given to us by Jesus.
That is, to love God with our whole being, then to love others as we love ourselves, especially through an awareness of our need for forgiveness and healing.
St Paul in the first reading is a good example of this teaching. He certainly expresses his love for God as Father, as Jesus the Lord whom he met on the road to Damascus, and the Holy Spirit that compels him to evangelize. Then he demonstrates his love for others by writing to Timothy whom he considers a beloved brother in the Lord and colleague in spreading the Word of God. Finally, he shows great self love in his awareness of who he was, a blasphemer, a persecutor and a man of violence. Now he is a grateful, forgiven disciple of Jesus Christ, a forgiveness that transformed him into a tireless evangelizer on fire with love for Jesus.
In the gospel, Jesus focuses in on that last part of the Great Commandment, to love ourselves. In this case, however, he laments the blindness of the scribes and Pharisees, who are so full of pride and self-righteousness they simply cannot see themselves as they are, nor accept Jesus for who he is. Jesus insists we must be able to see the log in our own eye before we try to take a speck out of anyone else’s eye. He is speaking of self-awareness, of the need to be aware of how we need to be forgiven and healed first, before we try to help anyone else.
Richard Rohr had a striking and cryptic way of saying the same thing, when he began a retreat with the Oblates in Saskatoon years ago with the statement, “You are who you are, who you are – what are you afraid of?”
In a homily in the Office of Readings for the feast of the conversion of St. Paul on January 25th, St. John Chrysostom writes, “The most important thing of all to St Paul, however, was that he knew himself to be loved by Christ. Enjoying this love, he considered himself happier than anyone else. Were he without it, it would be no satisfaction to be the friend of principalities and powers. He preferred to be thus loved and be the least of all, or even to be among the damned, then to be without that love and be among the great and honored. To be separated from that love was in his eyes, the greatest and most extraordinary of torments; the pain of that loss would alone have been hell, and endless, unbearable torture. So too, in being loved by Christ, he thought himself as possessing life, the world, the angels, present and future, the kingdom, the promise and countless blessings. Apart from that love nothing saddened or delighted him; for nothing earthly did he regard as bitter or sweet. Paul set no store by the things that fill our visible world, any more than a man sets value on the withered grass of the field. As for tyrannical rulers of the people enraged against him, he paid them no more heed than gnats. Death itself and pain and whatever torments might come were but child’s play to him, provided that thereby he might bear some burden for the sake of Christ.” St. John could write like that about Paul because he himself had many of the attributes of St. Paul.
The Eucharist is an opportunity to live out the Great Commandment. We love God by our faith in the love of Christ made present through Word and Sacrament. We express self awareness by acknowledging our sinfulness and need for forgiveness in the penitential rite, and we reach out to love others through the sign of peace and being sent out serve anyone in need at the conclusion of the mass.
So, let us seek to live out the Great Commandment in our daily lives by loving God, reaching out to others, and accepting ourselves as we are through humble, honest self-awareness.