Monday, September 09, 2013

Homily - "Love God first"

Click here to listen to Sunday's homily.

If there was one place on earth you could go, where would it be? For me, it would be the Holy Land (Israel). There are many beautiful, fun, and majestic places around the world, but the Holy Land is where God lived, taught, died, and rose from the dead.  It's where God walked the earth!

The Newman Center is coordinating a pilgrimage to the Holy Land from May 27-June 6, 2014. We have flyers in the back of Church tonight that show the itinerary, costs, and details. We will have an info session on Tuesday night, 7:45 pm, at Newman.  15-20 students can go.  So, pick up a flyer and come to the info session if you're interested.

Everyone I've ever known who has gone to the Holy Land has said they now the Gospel sounds differently to them.  It has more meaning and power.  We are offering something this semester which might do that for you anyway. Brother Richard will be speaking to you briefly after the homily to describe the Bible Study he is offering on Thursday nights. In short, it sounds awesome! He will help the Word of God come alive in your life.

We don't need any help in hearing the power of tonight's Gospel.  It is strong stuff from The Lord. He says we need to "hate" our parents, family members, even our own lives if we are going to follow Him.  The proper translation of "hate" in this context - and what The Lord intends - is "love less".  We are to love all people and things less than God.  God is our first love; we love Him above all people and things. It makes more sense if we recall what Christ says elsewhere: that the first commandment is to love God with our "whole mind, heart, soul, and strength", and then to love our neighbor as ourselves. God is our first love.

This demand of a total commitment might sound familiar to you. I'm sure some of your professors demand that you love their classes above all others. Some of them make it seem that their class is your only class! And, the work they give you reflect that. But, no professor or boss created you, died for you, or saved you. God created you, and loved you first. He can make the real demand that you love Him first.

A practical application of this Gospel is Sunday Mass.  When you come to Mass on Sunday, you are putting God first.  There is a lot of competing "loves" on Sunday; Jesus refers to them as "possessions". When you make the time to come here on Sunday, you are saying that The Lord is more important than work, family, friends, relationships, football (yes, football is back!), shopping, etc. Whether you go Saturday night, Sunday morning, or Sunday night, you are loving God first and living out this Gospel.  But, the converse is true if you skip: all those things are more important than God. And, if you think, 'I'll just go on Monday or Tuesday instead of Sunday", it's not the same. Going to Mass during the week is beautiful and awesome, but Sunday is the Christian Sabbath. It is the Lord's Day.

We come to Sunday Mass, then, to love God first, then, but also to reap the benefits that lie herein. I'm referring to the Eucharist.  When I ask people what is the main reason we come to Mass, very few answer correctly.  It is to receive the Eucharist.  This is the high point of the Mass; the Eucharist is the source and summit of the Church's life. Let me explain briefly what I say before receiving the Eucharist at every Mass: "let all faithful Catholics come receive our Lord". I will basically be preaching to the choir because you all respect the Eucharist so well.  Visiting priests have seen the way you approach the Eucharist with bowing profoundly, receiving properly (if in the hand, one hand over the other making a throne for our King or on the tongue), and have commented that you are among the most reverent people approaching the Eucharist they have ever seen.

First, we need to be Catholic to receive Holy Communion.  Non-Catholics have thanked me for laying out the guidelines: if a person can’t receive, they can come forward, cross their arms and receive a blessing.  Or, they can remain in their pew and make a spiritual Communion (which is preferable). We need to be Catholics who are in a state of Grace.  If we are in mortal sin, we need to go to Confession before receiving Communion.  Again, just come up for a blessing or make a spiritual Communion.  Do not worry about what others around you are thinking; worry about what Christ is thinking.  Put God and respect for the Eucharist first!

The basis for what I say is St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11, verses 25 and 27.  He addresses those who receive the Body and Blood of the Lord unworthily (none of us is worthy but Christ commands us to receive which makes us worthy).  It’s bad news, basically.  St. Paul says that anyone who receives unworthily “brings judgment on himself”…for the Body and Blood of the Lord…he will be responsible for the death of Christ. I don’t want anyone here going there.  It is out of love for you and the Eucharist that I say it. 

It is really a spiritual reminder or reflection on what – or who – we are receiving: God in the flesh.  It is the God who has loved us first and who we love above everyone and everything.

No comments: