Homily of Bishop Les Tomlinson: Trustees Mass
This homily is based on Hosea 14:1-10, and Mark 12:28-34. Bishop Les Tomlinson is the Bishop of Sandhurst and has been a College Trustee since his episcopal ordination in 2009.
This homily was preached by Bishop Les Tomlinson on the occasion of the Trustees Mass at Corpus Christi College on Friday, March 9, 2018.
By Bishop Les Tomlinson (Bishop of Sandhurst)
Look at what affection and regard Jesus answered this scribe. Unlike others, this scribe was seeking wisdom, not an argument. He relished Jesus' answer, and placed it in the context of the Scriptures. Jesus rewarded him with that grave compliment: ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’. And here is a good question for ourselves: Could you say that to me, Lord? Is my search as serious as that scribe's?
We touch here the heart of religion and in prayer, we enter into that space, and listen. At the heart of our openness to God and our desire to do God's will, we hear that there is one great commandment of love - to love God and love the neighbour. Long believed by the Jewish people, but often clouded in regulations and minute laws, Jesus is offering his path to true faith in God, through love. He will later give his specific nuances and tones to that love in its treatment of our enemy and our hope to forgive.
Today Jesus reminds us that the whole point of the Lenten season, the whole point of the Christian life to which Lent is meant to restore us, is to return with our whole heart in love to God, and not just our heart, but to return to him with our whole soul, mind and strength as well.
It is important that we truly confront what Jesus is asking of us. There are many Christians who believe they love the Lord simply because they have good thoughts about God; they admire him, they think that he is kind, merciful and generous. However, Jesus is calling for much more than this. Love is more than having good feelings or impressions about another. Love is the unconquerable benevolence that leads to willing, to choosing consistently, the good of the other for the other’s sake. Love is opting as a habit, to sacrifice oneself for another, putting someone else ahead of us, as Jesus would say during the Last Supper and put into action the following afternoon: laying down one’s life for one’s friends, in little ways or supremely.
There are many Christians who love God to the point of sacrificing for him, but as today’s Gospel shows us, it is not enough to sacrifice some of the time, financial resources and talents that he has given us for him and his glory. It is not enough to give God some of their mind, heart, soul and strength. Jesus is calling us to love God with all we have! Today he says that that is worth more than all sacrifices. To get to that type of love requires a deep conversion on our part. It means that our hope is not just to be good people but also to be holy people.
We should make this practical.
Jesus calls us to love him with our entire mind. How much of our mind do we dedicate to God? Do we try to think as God thinks in our decisions? Do we truly fill our minds with his thoughts, through prayer and reading, or do we fill them with the world’s thoughts through reading the paper more than the Bible and surfing the internet or watching television more than we pray?
Jesus likewise calls us to love him with all our heart. Do we really love God more than we love everything and everyone else in our life?
He calls us to love him with all our strength. How much effort do we make to love him? Do we battle through distractions in prayer? Do we prioritize Mass and adoration and really strive to focused?
He calls us to love him with all our soul. That means he wants us full of grace. Do we seek to stay free of all sin or do we compromise with sin and give in to gossip, complaining, holding grudges and the like?
Do we take advantage of the opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation so that whatever in our soul is not of God can be forgiven?
In the Gospel today, however, Jesus goes a step further that challenges us to have the courage to love him with everything we are and have. He tells us that our love for God will be shown in our love for our neighbour.
We begin by seeking to love others with our minds and think good things about them, noticing their good points rather than their weaknesses, giving them the benefit of the doubt rather than thinking the worst. We love them with our heart, which means with affection, including those who are difficult to love, and making the effort to care for the wounds of their heart. We love them with our strength, including when it requires summoning the strength to forgive them and making the effort to help them with deeds. And we love them with our soul, caring in a special way for their souls as well, that they be full of God.
More than any other prophet, Hosea tells about God’s love for his people. To paraphrase the end of the passage of the Prophet Hosea in today’s first reading, this is the “straight path” that the Lord wants us to take. This is the path that those who are “just,” who are in a right relationship with God, do take. As demanding as the path is, the Lord calls us to it, because he knows that this is the path of happiness.
Someone who is loving the Lord with all he/she has and loving neighbour is the one who is really filled with joy and peace and Jesus wants us to have that joy. St. Therese Lisieux once famously said that we cannot become half a saint. That is that there is no way to become holy and eternally happy giving God only fifty percent. We need to give him everything. That is the type of restoration that Lent seeks to bring about in us.
If we can only learn that only through the ways of life, which God proposes, can we find the true fulfilment of our deepest longings, and then we will experience a deep happiness right through our life. During this Lent let us open our hearts to a total and unconditional love of God and of all those around us.