Sunday Sermon for October 25, 2020, the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Ex 22:20-26; 1 Thes 1:5c-10; Mt 22:34-40

In the second reading today St. Paul extols the Thessalonians for their great faith.  This faith came through hearing the Gospel preached by St. Paul.  However, it is interesting to note that St. Paul speaks of how the people received the Word of God: in great affliction and with joy from the Holy Spirit.  Because of this, the people of Thessalonica became a model for the early Christians.  They chose to serve the living and true God, and to await His Son from heaven,

Most of us were baptized into the Faith when we were babies and we were raised in the Faith with very little trouble.  Some of us are converts to the Faith and, while there may have been some difficulty with family members and friends, for the most part, even converts have not had to suffer much for the Lord.

This being said, I have heard many times that not only our country, but the Church in America, is the only hope for the future of the world.  With so much infidelity politically and ecclesiastically, many are looking to us as the last stronghold of truth.  While this message is very positive, I must admit that I have not heard that the faith of most Catholics in America is a model for all others around the world.

However, there are some signs of great hope.  There have been criticisms from the highest levels in the Church about the faithful Catholics in America.  Even Pope Francis thought it was a compliment to be criticized by Catholics in America.  The divide in our country is not merely along political lines, but along the lines of faith.

Jesus told us He came to bring division and a sword.  This sword would cut so deeply that there would be division even among family members.  We are seeing this now.  We must be clear, however, about the source of the division: it is a division based on truth and charity.  Our society has rejected objective truth to embrace relativism wherein everyone can define their own truth.  We have rejected charity, the love of God and neighbor, to choose selfishness.

The time is coming when we will have an opportunity to suffer for our Faith.  As we have seen in many places around the world, there will be an abundance of martyrs here in North America.  Those who preach tolerance will not tolerate the truth; they will not tolerate Jesus or anyone who serves or worships Him. 

This is where our charity needs to come to the fore.  It is one thing to proclaim our belief in Jesus and even our love for Him.  But do we have the kind of love that will allow us to die for Him?  Do we have the kind of love that will cause us to pray for our persecutors and love those who put us or our loved ones to death? 

In the first reading our Lord commanded the people of Israel t to not molest or oppress an alien, nor wrong any widow or orphan.  They were to be compassionate to those who borrowed money from them.  It may not be widows or orphans we will be dealing with, but other Catholics who are being oppressed.  There will be people who have nothing.  Are we willing to share the little we might have to help them? 

We will have an opportunity soon to be an example to Christians around the world.  Obviously, we cannot act out of a selfish motive of wanting people to notice us or think well of us.  Rather, we need to act out of the pure motive of love of God and neighbor, as our Lord instructs us in the Gospel reading. 

If love of God and neighbor are the two greatest commandments in the Law and, as our Lord tells us, the whole Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments, then these commandments provide guidance for us about how we are to live.  In another Gospel passage, when our Lord was asked who the neighbor was, Jesus told the parable of the good Samaritan. 

The Samaritans were hated by the Jews, but this man was willing to truly love his “enemy.”  We will be faced with many opportunities to love the people God puts in our path.  We must see each person as one who is endowed by God with immense dignity and we must treat them with kindness, respect, and charity, even if they treat us in the opposite manner.  When this happens, we may not be able to say we received the Word in great affliction, but that we chose to live the Word with joy in great affliction.  Jesus is the Word; and the Word, lived in love, is the model for all Christians!

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.

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