Greatest Commandment

30th Sunday Homily by Archbishop I. A. Kaigama at St. Mary Magdalene Parish, Old Kutunku, Abuja. October 25, 2020.

Readings: Exodus 22:20-26; Ps. 17(18): 2-4, 47-51; 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40

Our readings today focus on the greatest commandment in the Scriptures, namely, to love God and to express that love by loving Him in our neighbour as we love ourselves. First century Judaism had expanded and multiplied the Ten Commandments and created a list of about 613 commandments! Jesus in the Gospel today simplifies and reduces all the commandments to love of God and the love of neighbour.

The first reading points out Moses’ teaching that the Jews had the obligation to take care of the needs of widows, orphans and those in need. If they did not, the widows and orphans could cry out to heaven and God would hear them.

We all have a duty and responsibility towards one another, our youths, our families and larger society. We need to create a society that cares about every citizen, where no one is considered useless or second class or outcast; less valuable, less educated, less civilized, less human, etc. St. Paul in the second reading commended the Thessalonians for their example of love to one another and being models to others in Macedonia and Achaia (cf. 1 Thess. 1:6-7).

My message to you the over 200 candidates who will receive the sacrament of confirmation is: love God and your neighbour sincerely. The same message goes to our lucky couple today receiving the sacrament of matrimony: love God and love your neighbour very well.

I actually feel like sitting down and saying no more, because I am very saddened by the news of uncivilized conduct of looting and arson that have gone on in parts of the country these past days. The youths embarked on a peaceful protest demanding an end to police brutality, the protection of lives, decorum in conduct by those in authority, accountability, good governance, etc. The Catholic Bishops in a statement said, “We stand with these youths and everyone who legitimately cries for justice.” Following the protests, some youths have been gunned down. Miscreants and hoodlums hiding under the #Endsars movement have destroyed very valuable private and public properties across the country.

I feel so sad about what is happening in our nation. We keep preaching love over and over. We are very religious; we hear sermons preached every Sunday in Churches and in Mosques on Fridays, yet we return home forgetting that we should be kind, patient, gentle and forgiving to one another. Look at what we do to one another. It is not just about the militants who kill, kidnappers who kidnap, bandits who terrorize, but how even we “normal” people treat ourselves or our neighbours. In the aftermath of the #Endsars protest, miscreants and hoodlums are destroying everything they find. We saw foodstuff stashed in stores and not distributed to the hungry poor even at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Where is the love we preach and hear about so often?

In teaching about the love that cares the Holy Father, Pope Francis talks about everyone being precious to God. Jesus’ love is endless and excludes no one, even those we may consider sinners in our human judgement. Some people have erroneously interpreted Pope Francis statement about same-sex civil union. The secular and even some religious media had a field day celebrating the “breaking news.” Those who don’t love the Catholic Church could not control their anxiety to spread the news. The Pope is simply saying that because the love which springs from Jesus is patient, kind, forgiving and all inclusive, sinners including drunkards, prostitutes, murderers, thieves, etc should be shown love and given mercy. A Christian is called to show hospitality not hostility; to love the sinner, but to hate the sin, to have and show love that is real, true and consistent.

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