The Compass of our Lives
30th Sunday Ordinary Time
October 29, 2023
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
from Matthew 22:34-40
As we go through life, it is critical that we have the means by which to judge our actions in the light of the gospel. More specifically, is this particular action, this very decision, this way of speaking and living pleasing to God? What we need to have are a set of compass points to guide us on our journey through life so that we do not get lost.
With this Sunday’s gospel, we have arrived at the very heart of Christ’s teaching. Here are the twin pillars that should animate every decision of our lives: do I truly love God? Am I loving toward my neighbor? If we keep these two commandments before our eyes as we make decision after decision, we will consistently steer our course toward the kingdom of God; we will not get lost.
It is in the nitty-gritty of everyday living that we find love is really an action verb. Christ isn’t talking about how we feel about God or our neighbor, but rather what we do, how we act. If I am habitually unkind toward others, look down on a certain ethnic group or ignore people outside my social clique, then this gives me a pretty good idea of how much I love God -- or really don’t love him.
Notice that our Lord tells us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. But what does it mean to have a healthy ego? Like a shopping cart that has a bad wheel, or a car out of alignment, we do tend naturally to gravitate toward the self-centered side of the road. Selfishness is part of the human condition, which the spiritual writers have often called “excessive self-love”. A person who has a spiritually balanced life has learned to consider the needs of others. How often, for example, do I insist on having my own way? How good a listener am I? Am I considerate? These are all ways we love God by loving our neighbor – in the little details.