Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


15th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
July 14th, 2013
Year C

My mother, the schoolteacher and now principal, always told me that when teaching, never ask questions you don’t already know the answer to. I learned this same principle during my studies at Catholic University obtaining a degree in Religious Education. You can imagine, then, the shock of this Scholar of the Law when he hears Jesus answer his question regarding eternal life and the Law.

While many reflections on this gospel are centered on the parable of the Good Samaritan, it struck me while reading: what was the real motivation of this scholar for asking the question in the first place? St. Luke tells us that he wished to test Jesus. I wonder if, however, there was an underlying intention. Perhaps he really did want to know the way to eternal life. Maybe his desire was for something more than just being a Scholar of the Law. Jesus teaches us something here. His response invites the scholar to think more deeply about the nature of the Law. There is a hierarchy and order in these two commandments to Love God and Neighbor. It constitutes a double precept of charity: before everything and above everything comes love for God in Himself; in the second place, and as a consequence of the first, comes love for one’s neighbor. There is something to be said for this breakdown of the Law. It is not something negative. If we think about the Decalogue – the 10 Commandments – it is filled with “Do not’s.” The understanding of the Law that is presented here is based on something completely positive love. Jesus, therefore, is telling us that the way to eternal life is found in love.

How is this love for God and love for Neighbor manifest? In holiness. Holiness, to which we are all called, does not consist in sinning but in loving. The reward for those who make holiness a priority in their lives, the reward for those who truly love God and do good for others, will be eternal life.

The problem that we find in the world and in the Church today is that we are NOT asking the question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Holiness is not a priority for many in the Church. We have been taught and convinced that if we simply do good for others, if we live a good lives and try not to harm other people – in other words, if I am a nice person – I will go to heaven. This attitude and approach to Christian living has cast us into a deep state of indifference. Recently Pope Francis tweeted:

“Lord, grant us the grace to weep over our indifference, over the cruelty that is in the world and in ourselves.”

Let us examine then, what exactly holiness is and how to live it. Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, in one of his plain sermons, described holiness as loving the things that God loves, to be displeased with that which displeases God. He notes that holiness is the circumcision of the heart – the removal of all that is bad/sinful in order to let in all that is right, true, and good – in order to let God into our hearts. It must be considered as well, that spiritual goods take precedence over temporal/worldly goods. Thus, the needs of the soul must be safeguarded, cultivated and nourished. This is true for our own souls and the souls of our neighbors. When a person is convinced of this he or she will stop at nothing to ensure that his or her soul remains pure because this person also loves. This is what makes that commandment to love so important for our souls. By obeying it man attains his own perfection.

Holiness, as the breakdown of the Law in this gospel suggests, is placing above all else the Love of God. And love consists in losing oneself in order to be filled by God. The love of one’s neighbor, therefore, naturally comes to those who first love God. For the person who has set the bar high for perfection and holiness for his or her own soul, will want the same for others. Such a person sees God in others and the need for God in others.

If we are asking ourselves, everyday: “what must I do to inherit eternal life? The answer is simple: “Be holy.” The answer is easy but living it may seem difficult. We must remember though, external actions and behaviors can influence inner dispositions. How then, do we strive for holiness?

- Read the Bible – start simply with the Mass readings of the day
- Make visits to the Blessed Sacrament
- Read spiritual books/lives of the saints
- Study the Catechism and the teachings of the Catholic Church – for holiness also consists in obedience to the teachings of our Church and to her head, Christ our Lord.
- Take time for daily prayer – not just praying on a whim or on the fly – setting a specific time for prayer, quiet time with the Lord.

When we engage in these spiritual exercises we make holiness a priority in our lives. It is as if we are saying to our Lord: “I want to be holy. I want to be like You in all things. I want to love You.” In this way we do not become indifferent, we become enflamed with the fire of the Holy Spirit. And when the Spirit of God is on fire within our own hearts and souls, only then can we go out and help start a fire in the hearts and souls of others. May we pray for the grace to have the virtue of courage in our lives help us to make holiness – love for God – our main priority.














Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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