This homily was given at the Sung Mass on the XVII Sunday after Pentecost at Old Saint Mary’s church in Chinatown, Washington, D.C:
In the opening of his masterful Encyclical Letter on Christian love, Deus Caritas Est, Pope Benedict XVI referred to today’s gospel scene, commenting, ‘Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus […] Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us’ (§1).
This is both a strong and a beautiful instruction in the Christian life. Strong, because it reveals to us the somewhat uncomfortable truth that the extent to which we love our neighbour is a reflection of the extent to which we love God. And beautiful, because it calls us to a more profound relationship with God, through the bonds of charity which we share with our brothers and sisters – those who share in Christ’s dignity, simply because he has chosen to take on our human nature and redeem it. As Pope Benedict points out, there is an intrinsic connection between our love and service of God, and our recognition of him in our fellow man. In and through the miracle of the incarnation – the enfleshment of God himself – Christ’s divine nature and human nature are fused together for all eternity and we certainly cannot separate them out and still profess an authentically Christian worship of God.