15th Sunday after Pentecost.
The Gospel reading for this Sunday is filled with meaning and instruction. We first hear the conversation between Jesus and a young pharisee, a lawyer. The lawyer asks Christ, ‘Which is the great commandment in the law?’ Our Lord replies to him: ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets.’
We’ll come back to this in a moment, but let’s also look at what occurs next in today’s Gospel. Christ poses a question before the gathered pharisees: ‘What do you think about the Christ?’ He asks… ‘Whose Son is He?’ The pharisees respond that the Christ is the Son of David. Christ then challenges them with the question: ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord’ saying – The Lord said to my Lord, sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool? If David then calls Him ‘Lord’, how is He his Son?’
This completely stumped the pharisees… leaving them speechless. And the Gospel tells us that no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.
What is Christ saying here and what does it imply?
King David, by virtue of his throne, would call no man Lord, except God Himself. Christ is the Son of David in His humanity, but He is the Lord and God of David in His divinity. In this short and startling statement of Christ, asking ‘How is it that David says ‘The Lord said to my Lord’… Jesus is revealing the mystery of the true nature of God… that God is more than just the Father - God is also the Son. This understandably baffled and silenced the pharisees.
We, who are blessed to live in the light of the Christian era, have also received the revelation that God is an undivided Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
But what is the relevance of all this theology? What does it mean to me? The fact of the matter is that the revelation and understanding of God as Trinity is essential and extremely practical in how we are to live our Christian life.
Let us come back to the first part of today’s Gospel: Christ’s summary of all the law and the prophets… ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
Love is the primary and greatest commandment. If we have love, we fulfill all the law and the prophets. If we have love, we follow in the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ. If we have love, we somehow participate in the very grace of God: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
God reveals Himself to us as the Holy Trinity and in doing so we get a glimpse into the reality of the activity of love that exists in the very Being of God Himself. God is not a single Being, God is a Trinity in which self-giving love is bestowed to and from each Person of the Trinity. This is a great and holy mystery!
And this has practical implications upon our spiritual life. For we are called to participate in this same self-giving love. This is not a call to sentimentality… this is a call to arms!
Our modern culture’s perception of love is one of self-satisfaction, of self-fulfillment, of self-pleasure. We love that which pleases us. And if we make the pursuit of this kind of self-indulgence our focus, all that stands in the way of what pleases us becomes the source of our greatest misery, frustration, and sorrow. This is the recipe for disaster in our lives and, unfortunately, it is epidemic.
The love that Christ calls us toward is precisely NOT self-seeking. Let us recall the description of the Apostle Paul of what true love is: ‘Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.’
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ… the love which Christ calls us toward is nothing short of a crucifixion of our selfish desires. It is a prioritization of God first, others second, ourselves third. The foremost commandment of love is a practical, moment by moment exercise in keeping God first in our lives and striving with all of our heart and mind and soul to follow His way of love – as just described.
It is not for the weak of heart. It requires tremendous self-discipline on our part. And yet, the more we exercise this self-giving and generous love, the greater becomes our deepest interior joy. It is a joy which comes not from seeking what we think we want, but from giving of ourselves to God and others. This is the mysterious and counter-intuitive paradox of life… the more we entangle ourselves in the vanity of seeking our own happiness, the more miserable we become from all the inevitable obstacles that stand in our way. The less we indulge ourselves and the more we extend our attention and energy to loving God and others, the greater becomes our interior peace and our true joy.
Love is a crucifixion, but it is also a resurrection. As the Apostle Paul writes: ‘For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection.’
May God grant that we renew our baptismal vow to unite ourselves to Christ and in so doing, may we participate in His triumph over sin and His glorious resurrection.