Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies

"Love: The Path that Leads to True Human Freedom"
Homily for the 23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
September 4, 2011
Year A

There is a gripping scene in the Disney film Beauty and the Beast, when the Beast is about to confess his love to Belle. Cogsworth, the Enchanted Clock, knew that if Belle pledged her love to the Beast, the spell over the castle would finally be broken. As she clasped hands with the Beast, she asked permission to gaze into the magical mirror in order to see her father. Seeing him in obvious distress, she dropped the mirror and gasped at his plight. “I've got to go to him!” she sobbed. Cogsworth later walked into the room with an air of triumphant expectancy as he declared to the Beast, “I must say that things are going swimmingly.” His mood changed, however, when the Beast uttered the most significant line in the film. “I let her go.” “You did what?” Cogsworth answered, knowing that letting Belle go was taking a colossal risk. If she didn't come back, there may never be another chance to break the horrible curse on him and his Kingdom. Why did he let her go? “I had to,” the Beast said. “I love her.”

The Beast, because of his love for Belle, lets her go, allows her to be free. Christ, because of His love, sets us free and allows us to truly be the men and women He has created us to be. But we have to cooperate with that love. And this is part of what the Gospel relates to us today.

Here, Our Lord calls us to work with Him for the sanctification of others by means of fraternal correction. He speaks as sternly about the sin of omission as He does about scandal and reminds us that we have an obligation to correct the erroneous behavior of others. He identifies three stages of correction: alone, among witnesses, and before the church.

But if we think about it, there is an even deeper meaning at stake here involving the nature of relationship. On Holy Thursday, The Mass of the Lord’s Supper begins with these words: “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est…where charity and love prevail, there God is.” St. Thomas Aquinas affirms that love is inconceivable if there is only one person and implies the presence of two or more. Our Lord’s words today remind us that Christianity is not lived in isolation. We are made for relationship and this is the only way we can truly develop. The Blessed Trinity – God Himself – is a relation of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit at whose core is pure, self-less love. And we were all created in this image and likeness. As such, there is within us the naturally tendency for relationship which arouses in us a call to worship – to gather together as His creatures, His sons and daughters and praise Him for His goodness and mercy. In this way, by turning to Him first, do we come to understand the truth of our human nature and puts our relationships with each other in their proper context and depth. But to be able to see God in others, to believe in His presence in all human life, without being put off by appearances, we must first have experienced God’s amazing love and mercy in our lives. Having had this experience, we would want nothing more than for others to want to have the same experience. Then do we begin to see Him in our neighbor, and then do we begin to love as He loves.

A problem we face, however, in today’s society is the threat of relativism. Relativism says that there is no objective right and wrong equally valid for everyone. Instead, relativism says, the only thing that matters is what each individual feels is right and wrong for him. In other words, morality is relative to each person. This false logic centers a person on himself and only the individual matters, nothing else. It thus leads to the isolation individual where the value of relationship and the sacredness of human life become devoid of meaning.
True relationship teaches us the universality of objective truth, the value of knowing right from wrong, and the development of the human person on the path to true freedom. This is what the Beast learned through his relationship with Belle. By not isolating himself from her, he began to love her and in that love was able to place her needs above his own. He became free to let her go because of love. Our relationship with God teaches us the same principle. When we reach beyond ourselves, when we think less of ourselves and more of others, here, we let go of our selfish tendencies and through relationships – with God and each other – our true selves to develop. Christ teaches us this truth from the cross. He teaches us that relationship is not always easy, it often hurts but it is where we learn to be truly free – not a freedom from, rather, a freedom for – for Christ and for our neighbor, the freedom to become the men and women He has created us to be. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta summed it up perfectly in her address at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC in 1994 when she said:

“It is also very important for us to realize that love, to be true, has to hurt. I must be willing to give whatever it takes not to harm other people and, in fact, to do good to them. This requires that I be willing to give until it hurts. Otherwise, there is no true love in me and I bring injustice, not peace, to those around me.”

Love, therefore, is at the heart of all relationship – with God and neighbor. Love is at the heart of Christianity and love is the path that leads to true human fulfillment and freedom because this path is the love of Christ.  



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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