Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
October 26th, 2014
Year A

A few years ago, I joined a book club. This is no ordinary book club. We read church documents, writings of the popes, as well as popular Catholic authors and theologians among various other articles and stories. The purpose is twofold. First, we come together to pray and have fellowship. The second is to help each other understand better the complexity of the faith in order to develop a deeper love for God and neighbor. Recently, a woman in the group commented that there seems to be no appreciation these days for the beauty of nature or that of classical piece written and performed by Bach or Mozart. That which is made known is that many people suffer from a lack of an interior life. The material, physical world is all that is known to them. As such, things like nature or classical music has no effect on them because they are unable to reflect on the beauty. At the same time, however, there is an objective beauty that speaks of a grand simplicity to nature or classical music. One does not need to have a deep understanding of each to know of its outward splendor. Yet, a person that tends to reflective, or who has a developed interior life can hear the magnificent organ or see the trees of a forest pierce the angelic sky. To that end, the heart, mind, and soul can rise with them to God who in His goodness has given them to us. In that sense, seeing the complexity of things shows what lies beyond the simple and beautiful: a rootedness or grounding in something greater. A tree’s roots spread far and wide yet with ease it grows and blooms into something magnificent. When you look at the music of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony it looks almost impossible yet he plays it with such ease and grace. Such beauty and simplicity is then an exercise of freedom. A tree does not look to its roots and say: “this is too complicated, I’ll never grow.” Beethoven does not look at his music and say: “this will never work.”

It seems to me this is precisely Jesus’ point in the Gospel. The question here is simple: “which commandment is the greatest?” Now, it is important to know that the Pharisees, the religious leaders of the time, had 613 laws in addition to the Law of Moses. These 613 laws dealt with every facet of everyday life – from feeding your animals to washing hands before meals. Of all these laws and commandments, which is the greatest? It is a test. Jesus quotes them the Shema: You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This they would have known, and known well. The whole of their religious lives hinged on this law, yet they had become misguided by these 613 additional rules. And Jesus goes on and says: “the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The whole law and all the prophets depend on these two commandments. Jesus gives them the simple, the beautiful. He shows them that while there is a certain complexity to faith, it is meant to be simple, beautiful and free. When we look down deep past the simplicity of the words we see the 10 Commandments, we see the complexity of living the faith, the struggle between sin and holiness, virtue and vice. Greater knowledge of this complexity – of the teachings, the dogmas, of virtues, etc – only helps us to appreciate with greater depth the beauty and simplicity of the faith. It shows there is an interior disposition in our hearts and souls that is rooted and grounded in truth and goodness and above all love.

In this sense, when we look at the complexity of faith, we do not think that it is too much, that there are too many rules, we see opportunities of growth, to rise above it all in joy, we see the path that leads to freedom. I think that we very often make it far more complex than it needs to be. The faith is simple, it is beautiful yet it must have roots and those roots must run deep. How then, do we balance this simple and complex? By starting simple. Start by picking a virtue, for example, dressing modestly, or using edifying language, or by reaching out to someone whom you know is lonely, or by exercising greater patience, or by being more diligent in studies and prayer. All of these things have an effect both in our relationship with God and our neighbor. They are simple yet they reach down deep into our hearts and souls. They form roots and they shape our lives. In this way, we can see our own faith not as something so complex and impossible to grasp or live but rather as rooted and grounded in truth, goodness, and love. In that sense, the complexity is gives way to the simple and beautiful. This is love. This is freedom. This is a person who sees far beyond the physical world, whose interior life is evident of one who begins to pierce the mysteries of God.


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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