A Lesson of Love
Homily for Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
A quotation that is attributed to St. Augustine goes something like this: “Love God, and do what you will.” The implication is, of course, that if you truly love God, you will not fail to obey all the commandments. The love of God and the love of neighbor are intrinsically connected. While the love of God is first and the love of neighbor is second, they really are the sum total of all the commandments when they are linked together.
Some years ago, when I was transferred to a new assignment, I met an older friar for the first time. We had an interesting conversation as we got to know one another. He made a statement during that conversation that I have never forgotten. He said that loving God was the one thing that we could not teach other people to do. We were both teachers, he a music teacher and I an English teacher. However, as much as he wanted to impart the need for loving God to his students, he realized that there was something natural about it and that it had to come from within the other.
In reflecting upon his notion, I think I also came to understand that loving our neighbor is something that also has to come from within. Our parents can teach us good manners. We can work on our own listening skills. We can even learn how to satisfy the needs of others. But the language of love is not something that we can acquire from the outside. It must come from within, from a desire to love and to be loved. It has to be integral. In the language of the Hebrew Scriptures, we must replace our stony hearts with natural hearts.
In the Eucharist, God teaches us how to give and how to die to self. They are the basic lessons of love. Truly, the Eucharist is the sacrament of love.