Love God and Light a Fire for the Sake of His People

Homily for 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)
October 29, 2017
Holy Trinity, Tabor – 8:00 AM; St. Francis of Assisi, Fisher – 10:00 AM

Focus:              God loves his people.
Function:         Love God and Light a Fire for the sake of his people.


Recently, I have been reading a very good book by Fr. Thomas Dubay. The book is called Deep Conversion Deep Prayer.  The book is about how a deeper prayer life leads to deeper conversion, and how deeper conversion leads to a deeper prayer life.

At the beginning of the book, Fr. Dubay introduces us to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a man who lived in the 1100s. St. Bernard is a saintly hero of mine – I greatly admire him for his preaching ability.  When he was 20 years old, he entered a monastery, which is remarkable in itself.  What is extraordinary is that he brought 20 other young men with him.

Eventually Bernard was elected as the abbot of his monastery. In one of his conferences to his monks, he said this:

There are more people converted from mortal sin to grace, than there are religious people converted from good to better.

Fr. Dubay echoes this point, but he goes on further to state that this is true of people in all states of life. It is true of priests, married people, religious people, and single people.  It is true of all of us.

There are more people converted from mortal sin to grace, than there are religious people converted from good to better.

In other words, there are more people who give up serious alienation from God then there are people who give up small wrongs or willed venial sins. And there are even fewer who grow in heroic virtue and live as saints live.[i]

There are more people who go from bad to good than there are people who go from good to better and better to best.

There are more people who repent and believe in the Gospel than there are people who seek to love God with their whole mind, heart, soul, and strength and their neighbor as themselves.

People will give up serious sin but they will stop at pursuing holiness. They will work to overcome vice but they will stop a pursuing virtue.

There are more people converted from mortal sin to grace, than there are religious people converted from good to better.

Of course, we are called to more than simply giving up sin. We are called to love.  Sin stands in the way of our ability to love so we must give up sin.  But to merely give up sin without progressing in love is to give up on the journey after we’ve packed the car and pulled out of the driveway.

Brothers and sisters, we are called to more. We are called to so much more.

We are called to love.

We are called to love with a heroic love.

We are called to love the One who first loved us with a love so strong that it called us into our very existence. We are called to love Him with all that we have and are because He first loved us.

Can we do it?

We can, with God’s help. And what’s more, it’s what we’re called to.  It’s who we’re called to be.

You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

Brothers and sisters, outside of the context of freeing us to love, the other commandments make no sense. We can fulfill the letter of the law when it comes to the other commandments but if our motivation is something other than to grow in our ability to love, then we are missing the mark.

In another place, Jesus said:

You have heard it said that You Shall Not Commit Adultery. But I say to you, whoever looks at another with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

If we merely fulfill the letter of the law but miss the spirit of the law, we are missing the point. If we look at another lustfully but stop short of committing the act of adultery, we are missing the point.

We are called to more. We are called to so much more.  We are called to love.

The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. To love God with everything we have, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

How are you doing?

Do you love God with all you’ve got?

Where do you compromise?

Where do you make excuses to sin?

There are more people converted from mortal sin to grace, than there are religious people converted from good to better.

Where do you stop short of conversion?

John Henry Newman was an Anglican priest who lived in the 1800s. He converted to Catholicism and later became a cardinal.  Fr. Dubay noted that Newman made this observation:

[L]arge groups of people, even large groups of religiously-minded people, do not light fires. Throughout the Church’s twenty centuries of history, it is individuals who ignite the blazes…Government bodies, town hall meetings, boards of directors on occasion promote worthy projects and programs…but these groups seldom, if ever, do anything that looks like [a huge fire].  If the group is blessed to have a saint in its midst, something great may happen–unless the group manages to thwart even a saint with majority mediocrity.  It is men and women like Augustine, Chrysostom, Benedict, Bernard, Francis, Dominic, Catherine, Thomas, Ignatius, Teresa of Avila, John of the Cross, John Vianney and Therese of Lisieux who light fires.  The evidence is convincing.

The glories of Church history are chiefly the works of individuals who, themselves bursting with love and intimacy with the Trinity, spark others to imitate their burning love, their [greatness of soul] and their heroicity in all the virtues. At the same time it is their deep love intimacy with the Lord that is the taproot of their ability to heal human hurts.[ii]

Brothers and sisters, the Lord came to cast a fire on the earth. He came to ignite a fire – the fire of charity.  The fire has been lit.  Will you catch fire and illumine the darkness so that others will catch fire from you?  Will you help spread it?

Become who you were meant to be and you will set the world on fire.
Put the law of love into practice and you will set the world on fire.

The two great commandments go together. They cannot be separated.  Love of God with all you’ve got will lead to love of neighbor, because you cannot love God with all you’ve got without loving what God loves with all you’ve got.  And God infinitely loves you and the person sitting next to you.

October is Respect Life Month.
Today is Life and Dignity Sunday.

Today provides you with a small opportunity to take a step toward conversion. To take a step toward loving God and loving your neighbor.  Today provides you with an opportunity to be converted from good to better.


MCC
In your pews are cards to sign up for the Catholic Advocacy Network. This network is run by the Minnesota Catholic Conference of Bishops.  It provides a way for you to stay informed of current legislation of interest to Catholics in Minnesota – legislation that has the potential to help or harm your brothers and sisters right here at home.

 

You may be tempted to say, “I don’t care. I don’t need another email.  I don’t want to be involved.”

I would remind you of this. God cares.  And for that reason, so should you.  God loves you infinitely.  He loves your children infinitely.  He loves your neighbor infinitely.  And he calls you to love them as you love yourself.  Love doesn’t stand idly by.

You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.

Take a step toward deeper conversion today.
Take a step toward becoming a saint.
Take a step toward loving more deeply.
Take a step toward setting the world on fire.


[i] Fr. Thomas Dubay, Deep Conversion Deep Prayer, p. 12.
[ii] Ibid., p. 74.

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