THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH

Her Doctrine and Morals

Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost

19 September 2021

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Dear Friend,

In considering today's Gospel, we can thank the enemies of God for making clear what our duties and obligations are. They wished to confound Jesus or entrap Him, but Jesus takes the opportunity to enlighten us all.

The first and greatest of all the commandments is to love God with our whole heart, with our entire soul, and with all our mind. St. Augustine says: "Thus He has left us no part of our lives that is not devoted to Him, nor wills that we should delight in any other thing. And whatever else has entered the soul, to be loved by it, let it be drawn into that channel in which the whole impetus of our love runs: for man is at his highest when, with his whole life, he goes forward towards the Unchangeable Good."

The love that we bear to the various gifts that God has given us is only correctly deployed when they are loved in God or for God. For example, we love: life, health, liberty, and material objects. These are only correctly loved in the context as gifts from God. When we exclude God from these loves, it is no longer love in our hearts but rather selfish lust that brings us sadness, anxiety, and eternal misery.

Concerning the second commandment that is like the first, St. Chrysostom teaches: "He who loves man is as he who loves God: for man is God's image, in which God is loved, as a king is honored in his image. And it is for this reason the second commandment is said to be like the first."

St. Augustine comments: "Man should love himself; either as just, or that he may become just; for so he will without danger love his neighbor as himself. But if you should love yourself, not because of yourself, but because of Him Who is the most befitting end of all your love, let another not take it ill, that it is because of God you love him. Whoever therefore rightly loves his neighbor should so act with him, that he too may love God with his whole heart."

We understand that it is not the sinful aspect of ourselves or our neighbor that we love, but rather the good (no matter how small that may be) that reflects God. Only this is lovable. We should consider that none of our neighbors living in this life is entirely evil and therefore undeserving of our love. If they were utterly corrupt, they would be in Hell and not still here on earth. They are still capable of doing something good either for themselves or others. God can and does make good come from all things — even evil and sin.

If we genuinely love God, all things will work for our well-being. The evil that others may thrust into our lives will ultimately work for the greater honor and glory of God as well as our greater good. In this, we find another motive to love those who would be our enemies. The crosses they cause us, conform us ever more closely to the image and likeness of Jesus Christ. The evil desire of others becomes the source of our greatest good — if we cooperate with God's grace by loving Him, as well as our neighbor for Him.

We find a perfect example of this love of our would-be enemies in Jesus as He hung upon the Cross saying: "Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing." When we understand the good they do for us, it is untenable to return evil for evil, but with every evil we receive, we should return ever greater blessings and prayers.

How deplorable it is to consider that when they intend evil and harm for us, they only harm themselves, and contrary to their desires, they give us the greatest hope of our eternal salvation. We love them not because of the evil they are doing or are desirous of doing, but because of the greater good we gain from them even as they make the ultimate sacrifice of their souls in the process. Indeed, we must pity them and have mercy towards them as God has been merciful to us.

The love of God and the love of our fellow man are brought together into One in the Person of Jesus Christ, True God and True Man. In Jesus' Divinity, we love God; in Jesus' Humanity, we love our neighbor.

Without being asked, Jesus offers proof of His dual natures (Human and Divine) from King David (109th psalm): "The Lord said to my Lord: sit on my right hand until I make thy enemies thy footstool." David calls his Son, Lord, because He is not only the son of David but also the Son of God. Jesus Christ is true God and true Man.

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