31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: What Brings Meaning, Joy and Hope to Our Lives?

eaOctober 31, 2021

Same ole, same ole, love God, love your neighbor!  Each one of us has “sort of” figured it out for ourselves.  Most of us have put some kind of personal limits as to what it means or how far we are willing to go.  So, who is God?  Is it as simple as a law or a command?  What is love — more than feeling or sentimentality?  A pervasive attitude?  Some kind of spirit outside of me that gets inside of me?  We need to revisit what seems “Same ole, same ole.”

So, let’s start with what goes on between God and each of us.  God may have a wish and a hope for us, but he cannot command us to do anything that we do not wish to do.  The Catholic Church may command us to believe or to do, but today, its commands are less and less effective.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, we were brought up on commands.

We have to get inside the story of God in our lives.

God wants to encounter us as a father encounters his children.  God wants to encounter us as a brother and a sister when he appears to us as Jesus.  God wants to encounter us as a Holy Spirit drawing us into real life relationships that purify us from selfishness and directs our lives outwards towards others, to life, and to care for all life — the climate even.

We need to step outside of our older theology and way at looking at God that has come from an old, feudal model of appreciating, the sequence of king and rulers to royal people, commerce and business, to peasants and uneducated who served more as slaves in society — a trickle down integrity and respect — all presided over by God.  There was a Catholic way to look and talk about God and no other way.  Everyone else were heretics or non-Christians or protestants, and somehow did not believe in God in the right or true way.

Since the 1960s and before, how the world viewed or appreciated God has changed.  Now we appreciate the living presence of God in everyone because everyone can naturally appreciate the God who is in everyone.  We cannot be alive without the presence of God living in us.

Theology and philosophy do not determine who God is or what God does.  The presence of God in each human being and in everything that is created determines who God is and what God does.  There is absolutely nothing that can exist if God is not present within it.

We would have absolute respect and reverence for [the climate] if we understood that God is as present in the whole created universe — out to the planets that exist billions of light years away just as God lives in each human being.

We are emerging from a way of looking at the human being as the pinnacle of all that is created because man and woman have a human soul and mind.  Everything that exists has a soul — the living presence of God and a mind — a capacity to be aware of their life.  Is one part better than another?

I believe that what St. Paul wrote about the Church having different parts, comparing the Church to a human body, should be applied to all living matter, all living things, whether living in water, on the earth, in human and not human forms.

When Moses encourages us once again today to hear and to listen to God, that we should “love the Lord, our God, with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our strength,” I believe he is telling us to pay attention to God’s personal life force and presence in each person and to whatever, we call “things.”

We cannot put God into a box, into a doctrine, into a word or into a ritual.  God offers Himself to us who are Catholics and Protestants, to Christians and to Moslems or Hindus or Buddhists.  We no longer live in a feudal, medieval Europe, a Christendom.  We live in a multiplex, complex world of diverse wonder where God is the source of everyone and everything.

Because that is so and because God’s love is the creative source of all, we should love in return and acknowledge the source of our being and honor — who is God — and our fundamental relationship with everyone and everything.

The neighbor is more than the neighbor as a next-door person.  The neighbor is now everyone of every kind of person.  The earth and the planets are “our neighbor.” As one homilist preached: “My church is the Ocean, the forest, and the mountain peak.”

Love is more than a feeling or a good deed.  The same homilist wrote: “Love involves justice, ethical praxis and practice, willing the good for the other, and taking concrete steps to put words into action.”

True love leads to a greater self-awareness of ourselves and our motives.  Love leads to true knowledge, self-reflection, healing, and whatever in our lives “for the sake of holistic, non-violent, and respectful engagement with life.”

So, it’s not the same ole, same ole, as Soren Kierkegaard, 19th Century Danish philosopher, theologian, and religious author says:

“Life is not a problem to be resolved, but a reality to be experienced.”

We have to find our soul, to live in God’s spirit and being-ness.  Only then do we “live life” as God intended it to be.

To love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul, and to love your neighbor as we love ourselves, is more than an invitation or command to perform.  It is what brings meaning, joy, and hope to life.

The letter to the Hebrews nominates Jesus “as the son who has been made perfect forever,” perfect in the sense of putting together a complete and simple way for us to have the same.  But we need to encounter God, not just believe in some abstract thought.

So, we sort of get it?  That’s the question Jesus asked the scribe today.  Hopefully, Jesus can read our hearts and help us to understand and he can affirm us: “You are not very far from the Kingdom of God.”

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