30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 26, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Ex 22:20-26; Psalm 18; 1 Thes 1: 5c-10; Mt 22:34-40
by Rev. Mr. Chris Barrett, Permanent Deacon, Resurrection Catholic Church
Three “I” words for you this morning: Intimacy, Intentionality, and Integrity – and the three “I” words relate to love of God, love of neighbor and love of self.
A scholar of the law is asking Jesus which commandment is the greatest, and he was probably hoping for a very scholarly, intellectual answer. What he got was, “Love God, love your neighbor, love yourself.” A very simple answer, but it does kind of say it all, doesn’t it?
Love of God. It’s about intimacy. My wife, Anne, and I for over 30 years now, going back to our very first year of marriage, were very intentional about marking the calendar with a getaway to a bed and breakfast for some intimate time together. And of course, every summer, there was our annual trek to Wyoming, where our family lives. Intimacy with your spouse, with your loved one, it comes very naturally to us. And in a similar way, intimacy with God should come kind of natural to us, and for many – maybe even most of us – it does. But we have to be somewhat intentional about expressing the intimacy and experiencing the intimacy.
One of my heroes in life – Msgr. Chet Michael, a priest of this diocese, died last summer at the age of 97. And the thing I remember most about him and admired the most about him was his preaching that in order for us to have an intimate relationship with God we need to retreat one hour a day for prayer. We need to retreat one day a month, mark it off on your calendar – it’s time for you and God to be intimate with each other – and one week a year to go on retreat.
I want to encourage you this morning to consider making one or more retreats every year to deepen that intimate relationship, to deepen your love of God.
Our two parishes are co-sponsoring a retreat that will be held at Resurrection on November 22nd. Two young Franciscan sisters – including Sister Carrie Ann McKeown – will be leading a one-day retreat on our personal relationship with Christ. You’re also welcome to join Resurrection folks in St. Francis Springs Prayer Center in North Carolina in the first week of January – a New Year’s retreat.
Love of God. Intimacy. Love of neighbor. Intentionality. What is instinctual is for us to look out for number one. That’s how God made us in a real sense, but as Christians, we hope to have an instinct, or by second nature, a kind of altruism – thinking about others. But because it doesn’t come so naturally to us, intentionality is what we need when it comes to loving our neighbor. Being intentional about making that meal for someone, about offering them a ride, about making a visit, about sending a card, about doing a good deed, about making an apology or saying thank you. Intentionality is required for us to really obey the commandment to love our neighbors. And in that first reading from Exodus, we’re given some specific kinds of neighbors to be intentional about: the aliens – immigrants. Who’s our favorite alien? We’re not talking about creatures from other planets. We’re talking about people born in other countries. The whole Old Testament, this is a repeated theme. Love of the alien. Welcoming the alien. What would it be like if we welcomed all aliens to this country the way we welcomed our favorite alien? I encourage you and I encourage myself, the next time you meet an immigrant, be friendly. Be intentionally friendly. The widow and the orphan – if you don’t have a special relationship and a special checking on a widow, there are plenty of them here and at Resurrection – be intentional about checking in on a widow and being there for a widow.
Intimacy. Intentionality. Integrity.
Integrity comes from the word “integer.” Pop quiz – What’s an integer? A high school senior can tell you an integer is a whole number. Having integrity is being a whole person. Jesus tells us in the short gospel reading today, the whole law is fulfilled in this. The whole person is the way to obey the whole law.
I learned recently that love of self is about SELF – “sleep, exercise, liquids and food”. And I would add “God” to that, although I’m not sure how you work “G” into making that a clever word, but a whole person, a person with integrity, is a person who has this intimate relationship with God, is intentional about loving their neighbors, and tries to be a whole person, to be an integer – to have integrity.
So we’re invited once again, we’ve heard it so many times, but maybe these are some new, practical ways of looking at love of God, neighbor and self.
Intimacy. Intentionality. Integrity.