Word Magazine May 1986 Page 15-16
THE GREATEST OF THESE IS LOVE
Homily By Father James C. Meena
“Blessed are they that fear the Lord and walk in His ways.” (The Marriage Service) (Ps. 128)
“With fear of God, with faith and love draw near.” (Divine Liturgy — Call to Communion) (Ps. 111:10 — Prov. 1:7)
“The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps. 111:10 — Prov. 1:7)
All my life I was instilled with a conscious need to fear God. And all of my priestly life I have had parishioners ask me just what it means to fear God. I have heard many answers to this question. I have heard the fear of God interpreted in many ways. I don’t know if I am qualified to give an exact explanation of this very mystical expression, but I will tell you one thing it is not:
The fear of God is not standing, cringing and cowering in craven expectation of thunderbolts to come down from heaven to punish us. I believe that the fear of God means to hold God in great awe, respect and reverence and to fear our tendencies to sin, because sin separates us from God and when we are separated from God, we die.
Holy Scripture announces the familiar Parable of the Sower, found in the 13th chapter of the Gospel of Saint Matthew (v. 4-9). Later, in that same chapter, (v. 18-23) Jesus explains the Parable, and I urge you to study it carefully.
In his homily on this Gospel, Saint John Chrysostom teaches us that Jesus is the Sower, His teachings are the seed and men and women, the soil or recipients of His Holy doctrines. He teaches us that while earthly pathways, rocky ground and thorny places can never bring the seed of the Sower to fruition, human beings are different, (Homily 44, Gospel of St. Matthew).
Human beings, although compared to unyielding, rocky or thorny soil, can change by an exertion of will, by the transformation of their minds and hearts, by turning their lives around through sincere repentance, dedication, commitment, faith and, above all, by love.
And Above All, By Love. We hear many concepts about salvation in today’s complex and fragmented society. “Are you born again?” “Are you saved?” “Have you accepted Christ as your Saviour?” While all these concepts have validity, not one of them, in my opinion, hits the mark. But there is a formula given to us by Scripture, a marvelous and wondrous blueprint to becoming one with God.
When Jesus was asked, “Which is the greatest of the commandments of the law?” (St. Matt. 22:36-40), He did not answer with a new commandment of His love, but in the context of the laws of Moses. He reached back into the most ancient teachings of the Torah, and from the book of Deuteronomy (6:4,5). He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength.” Then He quoted from the book of Leviticus (19:18), and lest one think it inferior to the first, He said, “The second is like unto it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
And to emphasize the superior nature of these two commandments, which He teaches as though they are one, He says, “On these Commandments hang all the law and all the prophets.”
Later on in His ministry He gives us another overriding and new commandment when He says, “Love one another; just as I have loved you, you also must love one another. By this. . . everyone will know that you are my disciples,” (John 13:34,35).
And, the last part of this formula which I have taken as the rule for my life is found in First Thessalonians (3:12,13) where St. Paul expresses this prayer. “May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you to love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.”
Here we have the four cornerstones of the life of a Christian, a human being who would become as the fertile soil bringing the seeds of the Sower to their maturity, “an hundredfold, sixty or even thirty fold.”
First, love God with your whole being for “Any man who loves God is known by Him”, (I. Cor. 8:3).
Next, love your neighbor as you love yourself, and this implies a need for self-esteem, self-respect, a sensible and unconceited evaluation of our role as God’s children.
Third, you must love each other, that is, in your discipleship, you must love your fellow disciples. In the fellowship of the Church, we strive to be His disciples. We are the family of God and there is a special love prescribed for us. St. John puts it best when he writes: “This is the message as you heard it from the beginning: that we are to love one another,” (I John 3:11). “Think of the love that the Father has lavished on us by letting us be called God’s children; and that is what we are, (I John 3:1).
St. Peter, in his first General Epistle speaks to the children of God as follows:
“You have been obedient to the truth and purified your souls until you can love like brothers, with sincerity; let your love for each other be real and from the heart,” (I Peter, 1:22).
Finally, we must love the whole human race. Did not our Lord set the example for us when He embraced the hated Samaritans, when He included the Gentiles among those who would be saved and when He sent His disciples to the whole world to preach His Gospel and to baptize in the Name of the Holy Trinity?
Do you worry about being saved? Do you yearn to be with Christ in Paradise when your soul is parted from the body? Do you desire to be a part of God’s Heavenly Kingdom? Then enter His Kingdom here and now! Leave your salvation in God’s hands and tend to the things you are able to tend to. Let God be God! You be His loving child!
Your salvation is in God’s hands. Your ministries as a member of His Kingdom on earth are in your hands.
“If you love me you will keep my Commandments,” says the Lord (St. John, 14:15).
“Our love is not to be just words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth,” says St. John, (1 John, 3:18-19).
“You must want love more than anything else,” says St. Paul, (I Cor., 14:1).
Our love is a two-way street. We love but imperfectly. God’s love for us is perfect.
St. Peter states for all to hear. “You did not see Him, yet you love Him; and still without seeing Him, you are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described, because you believe; and you are sure of the end to which your faith looks forward, that is, the salvation of your souls,” (I Peter 1:8).
Yes, the scriptures are filled with the promise of salvation. But lest anyone should boast, our Divine Liturgy urges us to call out, “Save us, O Son of God, Who art risen from the Dead, who sing to Thee, alleluia”. And then, to reassure ourselves that our salvation is ready for us, we close the Liturgy, after having consecrated and received the precious and life-giving Body and Blood of our Lord, by singing, “We have seen the true light. We have received the Heavenly Spirit, we have found the true faith, worshipping the Undivided Trinity, for He hath saved us.”
My beloved, “We can be sure that we know God only by keeping His commandments,” says St. John the beloved. “Anyone who says ‘I know Him’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, refusing to admit to the truth. But when anyone does obey (His Commandments), God’s love comes to perfection in Him, (I John, 2:5).
“Eye hath not seen, ear hath not heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him,” (I Cor. 2:9).