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Homily for 95/10 - P15- the core of our salvation

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  • Fr David Moser
    Matthew 22:35-46 These two commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor encompass all of the law and the prophets. They sum up the whole process and
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 5, 2010
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      Matthew 22:35-46

      These two commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor encompass
      all of the law and the prophets. They sum up the whole process and
      purpose of our salvation. Every one of the “laws” and “rules” that we
      find in God’s revelation to us, from the commandment to our first
      parents in the Garden of Eden not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of
      good and evil to the Decalogue (ten commandments) to the beatitudes can
      be summed up in these two great laws. And yet these two laws themselves
      cannot be separated but the one is but an extension of the other and
      they cannot be separated. This is the very root and basis of our
      Christian life: to love God and to love our neighbor.

      We see in the scripture itself how it is that these two commandments are
      related for the Apostle and Evangelist St John says to us, “If a man
      says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar for he who does
      not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has
      not seen” (1John 4:20) These two commandments cannot be separated, one
      must love God in order to truly love his neighbor and yet if he does not
      love his neighbor whom he has seen he cannot love God whom he has not
      seen. These two commandments are all about love and how love works in
      us. We were created in order to share in the love of God – to be loved
      by Him and to love Him and as a result to love our neighbor as well.

      How then do we love God and our neighbor? In order to understand love we
      must look to the One Who is Love. God is love and those who love are
      born of God and know God. God, Himself, is our example of love. The love
      of God for man is the most easily observed example of love, for God
      loved us and thus took on our life in the incarnation and gave Himself
      for us men and for our salvation on the Cross that we might in turn
      share in His life. Before we consider this, however, let us look at what
      we know of God Himself. By this, I mean the great mystery of the
      Trinity, God who is One and yet three persons. How this, the nature of
      the unity and diversity of the persons of the Trinity, can be is beyond
      our understanding. We can, however, understand some of the things about
      this mystery. The three persons of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy
      Spirit – are each one separately and all together corporately constantly
      partaking of the same life which is communicated by their perfect love.
      One of the characteristics of the love of the Holy Trinity is that the
      separate persons of the Trinity are joined in One by love and they
      participate in each other in their undivided nature. Love, as
      exemplified by the Trinity, is that complete participation, that
      intimate communion between Persons that unites them as One.

      This then, is how we love God – we participate in His life, we live in
      communion with Him. Just as He expresses His love for us by taking on
      our life, by becoming incarnate and participating in our life from birth
      to death and beyond, so also we will love Him by participating in His
      life, inasmuch as we are able. If we love God we will become, to the
      degree that it is possible, united with Him and will participate in His
      divine energies. If we are united to God by grace in His energies then
      we will not act in any manner that is inconsistent with His nature, nor
      will we do anything that jeopardizes that unity. For this reason, God
      can say to us, “if you love me, you will keep my commandments”. These
      commandments are nothing less than the means by which we maintain our
      communion with God and participate in His life.

      In loving God and living in communion with Him, we cannot then avoid
      sharing His love for all mankind. This is where the commandment for the
      love of neighbor comes into play. It is the outgrowth and expression of
      our love for God. And how do we love our neighbor? In the same way that
      we love God, by participating in his life, bearing his burdens, pouring
      out mercy and compassion upon him. If it is our task to conform to the
      will of God by sharing in the very life of the Trinity, making its
      central principle – love – our own desire, our mode of being, our model
      for complete existence, then it behooves us to love one another to the
      utmost – indeed, if it is possible – to love one another equally without
      prejudice, favoritism, without any impure and imperfect element which
      would permit even the slightest distance and gap to wedge itself between
      ourselves and all others. In order to love others, we must not only
      coexist with them, but we must become a significant part of their life
      by giving of ourselves. God loves us and so gives Himself to us – and if
      we then also love our neighbor, so we must also give ourselves to him
      and for him.

      Too often we think of love as an emotion, a warm and fuzzy feeling that
      we have in the presence of the object of our love. But that is not love
      – love is not an emotion, rather the emotion is the result of love. Love
      is an action, it is a mode of being, a way of life. When we love
      someone, it is not a feeling that we have towards them but rather it is
      that we give ourselves to them. See how love becomes a self sacrifice, a
      giving of ourselves to another person, a sharing of our life with them
      and perhaps more importantly setting aside our own lives to share theirs.

      In speaking of our communion with God, the Apostle reminds us that “it
      is not I that live, but Christ who lives in me” When we love God it is
      not enough to say merely that we “live for Christ”. It is necessary
      instead that Christ lives in me, His life is my life, His actions are my
      actions, His words are my words. In that Christ lives in us and that we
      who love Him are also full participants in His life, we then become the
      conduit of the love of God to the world. When, in Christ, we love our
      neighbor, it is not our self serving, feel-good actions that are the
      essence of that love – instead we become the expression of God’s love.
      We set aside not only our life but our own love as well and just as we
      live the life of Christ, so also we love with the love of God.

      Our salvation, that is our union with God for which we were created,
      cannot be individual and independent of all else, but just as the love
      of God is the union and communion of the Persons of the Holy Trinity so
      also our love for God and for our neighbor is a communal act. We cannot
      love God in isolation, but only in community, by loving others and
      giving our selves for them just as God gives Himself for us. In order to
      fulfill these two commandments, to love God and to love our neighbor, we
      must first and foremost empty ourselves, and first be filled with the
      life of Christ in which we participate so that it is no longer I but
      Christ who lives in me. When we live in such close communion and
      participation with the one who is love, then we of necessity will also
      love our neighbors, giving ourselves for them and participating in their
      lives, bearing their burdens, sharing with them our joys, relating to
      them with compassion and mercy. This is how God loves us and in turn
      this is how we love others.

      --
      Archpriest David Moser
      St Seraphim of Sarov Orthodox Church (ROCOR)
      Homilies: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/propoved/
      Website: http://stseraphimboise.org
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