Choose to Love

October 31, 2021 | N W | Discipleship, Father Nixon, Forgiveness, Grace, Healing, Love, Strength, Wisdom

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 31, 2021 — Year B
Readings: Dt 6:2-6 / Ps 18 / Heb 7:23-28 / Mk 12:28b-34
by Rev. Nixon Negparanon, Pastor

There is a story told of a man who was liberated from a concentration camp in WWII. He was called “Wild Bill Cody.” They called him that because the man had an unpronounceable seven-syllable Polish name and a handlebar moustache like the ones on Old West heroes.

While the rest of the Jewish prisoners were emaciated and haggard, Wild Bill was in excellent condition. Because of his amazingly good health, the Americans assumed that he had been in prison a very short time.  When his papers came through, however, they showed that Wild Bill had lived on a starvation diet and slept in airless, disease-ridden barracks for six years – just like the rest of the prisoners.  But Wild Bill had done it without physical or mental deterioration.

Wild Bill reported that he had lived in the Jewish section of Warsaw. He was an attorney with a wife, two daughters, and three little boys. When the Germans came into Warsaw, they stood Wild Bill’s family against a wall and opened-up with a machine gun. Wild Bill said he begged to be allowed to die with his wife and children, but because he spoke German, the Nazis wanted him as an interpreter.

Wild Bill made a decision. He said, “It would have been easy to blame the soldiers who killed my family, but in my practice, I had seen too often what hate had done to people’s minds and bodies. Hate had just killed the six people I loved most in this world.  I decided then and there that I would spend the rest of my life, whether it was a few days or more years, loving every person that I came in contact with.”

Brothers and sisters, we see the tension between Jesus and the Pharisees, the tension between the Old Testament and the New Testament, and the tension between the laws and heavenly values. God gave the commandments to make people understand love. The people of Israel were given laws and commandments – not just to practice them – rather, to learn to love God and men. The inner purpose of the commandments and the law is to experience love.

What is the first and great commandment? Jesus replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. What is the second commandment? The second commandment is like it, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, brothers and sisters, we can manifest the love of God in many ways:  obeying His commandments, taking care of and nurturing His children, offering a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, reading and pondering His word, attending the Holy Eucharist, making a holy hour, going to confession, and many other liturgical activities. If we are to love God with all our hearts, soul, mind and strength, then we must be willing to give Him our time, we must be willing to understand His ways, and keep His commandments.

Love for neighbors can be shown in various practical ways – like visiting elderly folks and the sick, a word of encouragement for those going through crisis, a sincere praise or compliment, and condolence with a bereaved family. We cannot force anyone to love us.  Like Jesus, we must love each other freely to experience the joy of giving. The new commandment to love one another is really an invitation to share in His joy – the joy of our Lord Jesus Christ and the creative joy of His father.

The decision to love everyone – that was the power that kept Wild Bill alive and well in the place of every privation the Nazis could engineer. He became self-reliant. He was able to make that decision, because he realized that he was able to choose his own feelings. No law dictated that he had to hate the Nazis. He knew that he was free to make another choice. By choosing to love instead of hate, one man salvaged both his mind and body from the Holocaust. Wild Bill was aware of the grace within. He stayed awake through the spirit which lived within him.

Mother Theresa once said, “People who love each other fully and truly are the happiest people in the world. They may have little, they may have nothing, but they are happy people. Everything depends on how we love one another.”

So, brothers and sisters, Jesus reminds us today that whatever we do as Christians in church, in our families, and at work, should flow, not out of a sense of compulsion, but out of love for God and our neighbor. Obedience is not the first duty of a Christian –  LOVE is!

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