"You shall love..." (Mt. 22: 37). The imperative or obligation to love is contained in the Greek form for love used in this Sunday's Gospel. The evangelist reports the spoken word of Jesus in the gospel passage proclaimed to us as a mandamus- a command. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind." The second great commandment, Jesus states, is to love our neighbor as ourselves. Love must be the source and end of our relationship with God and fellow humans. What exactly is love (agape) in this context, and how do we love as God intends?
To love God is to surrender our will, intellect, and being to his will. To love is a choice we make in response to God's invitation to do his will with all we are. It is grace, and it takes grace to respond in love. We must take seriously God's injunction in the Scripture to love him with all we have, our heart, soul and mind. We can meditate at length on agape love today to know precisely what this love demands of us.
To love as God demands is to do it unconditionally for the good of the one we love. It was St. Paul who made a big statement about love. He said the only obligation we owe one another is to love (Rom. 13:8). The command to love without limit is to participate in divine life. This act of love is grace at work. We saw this act of love alive in the Christian community at Thessalonica, and we saw how St. Paul gave thanks to God for their "labor of love" ( 1 Thess 1: 2). To use Aquinas words, we must love others for their own sake, wishing the good of the ones we love and not our gain. Love calls for sacrifice of personal pleasure on the part of the lover for the ultimate good of the loved.
We actively demonstrate love for others when we pray for the good of their soul. Our loved ones, the church in glory and suffering, are our neighbors. We have an unconditional obligation to love. We show a special love for our beloved who have fallen asleep by offering suffrage for their soul. Suffrages are intercessory prayers, usually in the form of holy mass and other sacrifices for the repose of the departed souls. In the Catholic church, we do this more intensely in November. We are to offer masses for souls in purgatory to obtain quicker union with God. Offering masses for the dead is a holy and noble act. You owe this obligation to your loved ones who have fallen asleep in the hope of the resurrection. We have a special remembrance of our loved ones who left us recently scheduled for All Soul's mass on Thursday evening. Please plan to attend in large numbers. Your attendance demonstrates love for your brothers and sisters en route to heaven. They will surely love you back through their prayers for you.
Please remember that the solemnity of All Saints is on Wednesday. It is a holy day of obligation (the word, obligation, comes up again). There are multiple masses made available; please check the bulletin. All Saint is a fitting day to display the relic of St. Peter, our patron saint. Please find time to venerate his relic because this is another ancient Catholic tradition. Our God is not a God of the dead but of the living. Our saints are alive with God in heaven and they love us still.
Love, and keep loving. It is what Christ demands of us.
In His Joy and love,
Fr. Alayode Bernard, OP