Sermon by Ministry Student Tirah Keal
Readings: Leviticus 19: 1-2, 15-18, Matthew 22: 34-46, Secrets of Heaven #2023, Divine Providence #94 (see below)
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Photo by Jamez Picard on Unsplash
These passages told us about the Two Great Commandments: Love the Lord and Love the neighbor, which means basically, Be nice to people. While you can dig really deep into these passages that we read, you can spend hours studying them, all the same, they are as simple as they sound. If You’re Loving the Lord, you will be loving the neighbor. If you're loving your neighbor, that is loving the Lord. Best two for one deal ever.
I don't know about you but I often get in my head way too much about it, thinking that it can't be that simple, it can't be that easy. Especially if I am trying to be a good citizen of the world and I'm reading the news, It's kinda bleak. In fact the news is usually the bad news. That’s what we see in the Headlines - what's wrong with the world today? So then I go okay how about I just look at national news that'll be less right? Nope, still bad, still hard, still frustrating and scary. How about local news? Even local news is overwhelmingly sad. I feel this sense that if I'm loving my neighbor I should be helping fix these problems. And Suddenly I’m exhausted and overwhelmed and very quickly pretty depressed. And now not only am I not fixing the world, I'm not even doing the dishes or taking a shower or showing up for my kids when they're upset.
Sometimes loving the neighbor looks an awful lot like self-care. That's weird for me, it's a relatively new thing to encounter the concept that the following list of things - in no particular order - can fall under the heading Loving the Neighbor:
Getting a good night's sleep
Doing the laundry
Taking a Shower
Putting on deodorant
Washing the dishes
Brushing my Teeth - How is that love for the neighbor? Because now I don’t have bad breath!
If I get a good night’s sleep, then I get up on time, then I leave for work on time, then as I’m driving I'm not stressed out and hanging on to the wheel for dear life and cutting people off in traffic. No. Instead, I'm relaxed and I can peacefully enjoy my commute. Then when I get to work I'm calm and centered so that if other people are distressed I can be like "it's okay, welcome how can I help?" So it's love for the neighbor to get a good night’s sleep because that can lead to a lovely interaction in my workplace.
We fall into a trap very easily of thinking that little actions aren't big enough. For a little while I worked as a cashier at a grocery store. When people came to the checkout with their piles of groceries, I would say “How are you?” and very often the response was just “I’m fine.” But more often than you might think someone would say “actually I'm feeling sad, I just lost my sister” or “my family is coming to town I'm so excited!” They would share genuinely from their heart how they were doing in that moment. It was such a gift to be able to celebrate with them, or grieve with them. It was such a gift for me to be able to turn to someone who just told me a tragedy and say “I'm so sorry, I lost my mom when I was young I know how that feels” and it made both of us lighter.
Love to the neighbor doesn't have to be big and showy, in fact for most of us it's never going to be big and showy. It's going to be the little things, but don’t underestimate those little things because we never know the ripple effect that they're having. Let’s say a person in a really sad mood came to the grocery store and I checked them out, and as I checked them out, hopefully I rang up their groceries correctly, but in the meantime, we talked and as they left maybe they felt a little lighter. Maybe that meant that when they went home that night they could prepare dinner for their family with love and lightness in their heart. Maybe that made it a little easier to make dinner. Maybe that meant that as their family sat around the dinner table they could have a heart-to-heart conversation rather than sit sullenly in silence or argue with each other. These are little tiny gifts we give each other, and they do exactly what these readings were telling us - that the Lord's love is flowing into all of us all the time. To follow these two great Commandments all we have to do is share.
But we're not always the ones giving, sometimes we're the ones receiving. Sometimes we're the ones that are low. Sometimes I'm the one that's depressed and I need to go to somebody and say I”'m not okay and I need help.” I'm not failing to follow the two great Commandments if I need help. Failing to follow the two great Commandments would be refusing help if it's offered, or not asking for help when I know I need it. I've been guilty of that, there are times that I get mad and then I get kind of stubborn. Somebody who knows me well will be aware that I’m upset, and they'll come and to me and ask “are you OK”? and I respond “I'm fine” but I'm not fine at all! By refusing to engage, by refusing to say “yeah I'm not I'm not okay” I’ve shut them off and I don't accept their help. That is breaking the two Great Commandments, that's shutting off the flow of Love from the Lord.
Sometimes following the two great Commandments can even look pretty confrontational. If I'm overloaded and I'm not going to be able to accomplish important things that need to get done, following the two great Commandments can be standing my ground and saying “No I can't.” Sometimes people don't like that answer. I'm a mom, I spend a lot of time taking care of my kids - doing the things that other people in the house didn't notice needed to get done. If I'm sick or depressed, or just really busy, and can’t do things things I normally do, then my family suddenly notices the things that didn't get done - the dishes are piled high,the laundry is all dirty etc. I could think I'm a failure, that I’m not loving my neighbor, but actually in that moment loving the neighbor can be me saying “how about you guys wash some dishes.” That's still loving the neighbor.
Hopefully we take these lessons into our lives and live these teachings, so here's the challenge for us this week: Don't underestimate the little kindnesses, they're a bigger deal than you think, and be willing to ask for help when you need it.
Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18
1The Lord spoke to Moses, saying:
2 Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy.
15 You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor.
16 You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the Lord.
17 You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.
18 You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together,
35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’
38 This is the greatest and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Secrets of Heaven #2023
The divine presence among people who believe in the Lord is love and charity. Love means love for the Lord. Charity means love for our neighbor. Love for the Lord cannot possibly be separated from love for our neighbor, because the Lord's own love goes out to the entire human race. He wants to save all of us forever and to attach us tightly to himself so that not one of us will perish. So anyone who loves the Lord has the Lord's own love and consequently cannot help loving others.
Divine Providence #94
The Lord's union with us and our mutual union with the Lord are accomplished through our loving our neighbor as ourselves and loving the Lord above all. Loving our neighbor as ourselves is simply not dealing dishonestly or unfairly with people, not harboring hatred or burning with revenge against them, not speaking ill of them or slandering them …. people who do not do such things because they are both bad for their neighbor and sins against God treat their neighbor honestly, fairly, cordially, and faithfully. Since the Lord acts in the same way, a mutual union results. When there is a mutual union, then whatever we do for our neighbor we do from the Lord, and whatever we do from the Lord is good.