Those doggone Pharisees were testing Jesus again. As always, Jesus had the perfect answer to put them in their place. I realize that this may not be a really popular view with many in the world today, but I believe that the order in which Jesus gave the two “greatest commandments” is significant – something that many working for “social justice” these days sometimes forget. Our good works must flow from a deep and sincere love of God FIRST. If not, our charitable acts are impotent – hollow – devoid of real love.
I think that the Catholic Church in America has gotten these two commandments reversed. At times, we seem to be more concerned with social justice than with worship of the Lord. Caring for the homeless, the less fortunate, the sick, the dying, the unemployed… is critical. We are called to do so through the corporal acts of mercy. We DO show love of God by caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ in our community, in our country and around the world.
Our priorities have to be carefully ordered, however. Sadly, worship of God seems to be on the back burner, as though we can put it off to some more convenient time. Our lives are busier than ever. When we meet St. Peter at the pearly gates, I don’t think that our schedules being “quite hectic” will be a sufficient excuse.
Many new churches are being built to look like giant barns. In the old days, people weren’t more wealthy. They were willing to give until it hurt – to sacrifice to build a beautiful church out of love for the Lord. I heard a story about one of the founding members of St. Henry Church in New Orleans – of a couple giving their wedding bands to be melted down in order to make a gold chalice – a suitable vessel for Christ’s blood. Would anyone be willing to do that anymore?
The songs we sing at mass are often about “we, we, we and us, us, us” instead of being hymns of adoration and praise of God. We’ve got the focus reversed. Instead of kneeling before our King when we go to receive Him at the altar, we nod our heads and take Him into our hands. We come to mass dressed in football jerseys so that we can go straight to the festivities after mass – and God help the priest if he runs over time! People start to leave so that they don’t miss kick off. The altar where the unbloody sacrifice occurs – where we are made present at the foot of Christ’s cross – used to be so sacred that it was partitioned off from the rest of the church. Now people parade up and down it like it’s no big deal. We say that we love God, but are we showing deep reverence and adoration by doing all of these things?
We say that we love God, but are we willing to carve out time each and every day to be with Him? Do we read scripture other than at mass on Sundays? The Word of God is His love letter to us. If we love Him, we will want to know Him better. We get to know Him better by reading His Word. Do we pray as a family? Have we truly made God the King and Lord of our homes, or is He only a guest from time to time? Do we consult Him in every decision we make, or do we just run to Him after we try to do things our way, and it all falls apart?
These are things that I feel very strongly about. Am I guilty of not putting God first at all times? – Most certainly. Often, it is my fatigue that is my weakness. I think that it is important to keep striving to do better though. God knows our hearts. I want Him to like what He sees when He looks inside mine.
We must care for our brothers and sister needs – both physical and spiritual – but we must put God first. In putting Him first, we allow His grace to fill us. When we then go forth to help those in need, His grace will flow through us to others. In this way, not only will we be addressing their temporal needs, but we will be bringing Christ to them as well.