Love God with all your strength

We can learn to love God with all our strength. We can choose to follow Christ and travel the path of spiritual maturity. We can resist temptation and grow in virtue. We can make a difference in the world, building Christ’s kingdom and encouraging others to do the same. If we couldn’t, none of the New Testament letters would have been written, since they all contain passionate encouragement to make practical, daily choices worthy of our Christian calling. If knowing the truth were sufficient for our spiritual growth, and if we were not free to choose to live according to that truth, St Paul, for example, would never have written this: “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry…Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection…And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:5, 12–14, 17). Then our hearts desire God above all things, and our emotions are joyfully subject to an intellect enlightened by faith and a will strengthened and aligned by grace, we can truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, just as Jesus commands.

Meditations on today’s liturgy

First Reading: 1 Col 3:12-17

Brothers and sisters: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Reading of the Gospel according to St Luke 6:27-38

Jesus said to his disciples: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

Meditations

The readings for today, both from the New Testament emphasis God’s love for us and His forgiveness while charging us with the responsibility to do the same.

In the first reading, Paul is encouraging the people the show both compassion and gratitude. He points out that we as chosen ones who are so loved by God have an obligation to pass this love and compassion on to others. It means we must forgive just as the Lord as forgiven us. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask that we be forgiven our trespasses as we forgive others. The forgiveness is not just for us to receive but for us to give as well. I think about how readily I ask to be forgiven and then how I can hold a resentment against others for their actions against me. How can I expect mercy and compassion if I am not willing to give it as freely as I expect it? I love that St Paul proclaims: “And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

I am reminded of the motto of the Jesuits to do everything for the greater glory of God. If I can keep this in mind, then my actions and my words will ring true. I sometimes have to ask myself about my motives for doing things especially when my feelings are hurt for being ignored while others are complimented. Am I doing these things to serve God? Did I serve God with these actions? If I can answer yes to these questions, then I should be satisfied. While I may be stung temporarily by the slight or carelessness of others, I can refocus on the true purpose of my actions and remind myself that my Father knows my name and what I am doing. It is not about me, rather about serving Him and serving Him with love and gratitude!

– Nancy Shirley, Creighton University’s College of Nursing