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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

FOLLOW THE YELLOW BRICK ROAD: The Most Perfect Path to Holiness

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Saints Peter & Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ Oct. 26, 2014

Praised be Jesus Christ! Now and forever! In today’s Gospel passage, our Lord gives us the most perfect path to holiness.

We hear in today’s Gospel passage (Matt 22:34-40) that a Pharisee asks our Lord which is the greatest commandment.  Now, in the time of Jesus, the Jews held the tradition that there were 613 precepts or commands in their law as part of the Old Testament. And the Pharisees were considered the political masters of Jesus’ time in law and politics. They saw Jesus as a threat to their power. So, they wanted to use their skill to discredit him.

When the scholar of the law asks our Lord which commandment of God is the greatest, Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter. He states not one but two commandments which are central to the spiritual life. The first commandment is from the Book of Deuteronomy. The second is from the Book of Leviticus. Yet, our Lord puts these two commandments together in order to emphasize that true religion is not simply a matter of external observance,  but that true religion comes from the disposition of our hearts.

Our Lord is reminding the Pharisees and us that the commandments of God are not simply words etched on stone. They are not simply words that are written on pages in a Bible. No! They are alive. They are to become part of our very being!

When the scholar of the law asks our Lord which commandment of God is the greatest, our Lord teaches that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. 

So, let us ask ourselves, what does it mean to love God with all our heart? I assume that everybody has seen the Wizard of Oz. You remember the Tin Man and how he had no heart?  When he met Dorothy and the Scarecrow he banged on his tin can chest, and it sounded hollow. It was empty. No heart. So he goes on a journey with the others in order to receive a new heart. As Christians, we too are on a journey to receive a new heart. However, our Christian life is not a fairy tale. It is real.

God wants us to love Him not with superficial love but with genuine love! He wants our commitment. He wants us to live for Him -- not for our own desires. He has given us the commandments and teachings, but if we do not strive to live these commandments, then we will not deepen our relationship with God. If we are not living our Christian life out of pure love for God alone, then we are not living authentic Christian lives. 
Love God
 with your whole heart and whole mind.
P.S . It takes courage. 

Our Lord next tells the Pharisees that we must love God with all our mind. Loving God with our entire mind means that we seek to know the truth. We seek to conform our minds to the mind of God! We strive to understand what is pure and holy!

Sin darkens our intellect. And when we continue to commit serious sin, then sin becomes unrecognizable. It becomes just another way of life.

So we must pray to the Lord each and every day for protection of our minds. We are to open our minds to God’s will so that He will give us understanding.

In his writings, Saint Paul says that we are to put on the mind of Christ. We are to strive to keep our minds holy, innocent, humble, wise, and intelligent. We are to think not as the world thinks, but as God thinks; and we must allow the Holy Spirit to purify our minds of all that is not of God.  

Our Lord next says that we must love God with all our soul. He is reminding us that our soul is eternal! It lives beyond this life. We can send our soul to eternal damnation, or we can allow God to raise our soul into His eternal love. When we sin deliberately, we separate ourselves from God! But when we allow God’s love in our hearts, then our souls become brighter with His light.  So, we must always strive to act as those destined for eternal life.

Our Lord calls each one of us to strive to love Him with all our heart, with all our mind, and with all our soul. We are to offer our entire self to Him! We give Him everything! We are not to hold anything back!

It is when we truly strive to offer our lives to God that we are then able to live by the second commandment that our Lord gives us in today’s Gospel passage: To love our neighbor as our self.  In fact, our Lord connects this second part of the commandment with the first part because we show our love for God through our love for our neighbor. In fact, we can’t truly love God whom we do not see if we do not love our neighbor whom we do see. 

And we must realize too that we cannot truly love our neighbor as ourselves until we come to first recognize our own dignity, that we are created in God’s image.  If we believe that we are garbage, then we will treat others like garbage. But if we recognize that we are sacred vessels of the Lord, then we will seek to treat others with the dignity they deserve because the Holy Spirit will grow in our hearts.

So many men in our society treat women without true dignity because they do not truly love and respect themselves as men whom God has created in His Image. And so many women in today’s society have a lack of respect for their own persons because our society teaches women their purpose is to be used as objects of pleasure instead of respected as the gift that God has created them to be!

My brothers and sisters, God calls each one of us to an intimate relationship with Him. And He calls us to lead others into an intimate relationship with Him. 

We need to reflect on the words our Lord tells us in today’s Gospel at all times!  Our Lord gives us these words so that He can transform our lives!

Which is the greatest commandment?
"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." 

 He gives us these words so that we can become all who He calls us to be! May each one of us truly strive to love God with our whole heart, with our whole mind, and with all our soul, and our neighbor as ourselves. 

This is the most perfect path to holiness. God bless you.

Did you enjoy this homily. Father Shea has others on this blog listed on the upper left hand corner. 
Here's a good one. There Can Be No Mercy Without The Fullness of Truth


  1. A thought provoking sermon, Susan, it brings one directly to the core meaning of what is required.

  2. very meaningful homily

  3. i wonder how you give God everything....thank you for the homily. just wondering because i know the answer must be unique for each person so please pray for me. thanks!

  4. I will pray for you. It's true everyone has a unique relationship with God, and within that relationship, one surrenders. The key is knowing who you are in relationship with God. My whole life I have struggled with love. I am Beloved of God but when I was a child I didn't understand that, and I defined myself as "Unloved." Like out of the Book of Hosea. "Unloved" went to school and was bullied. "Unloved"'s father died when I was four. "Unloved" was overweight. Then I started asking this question, "God what are you teaching me in this experience?" The answer God gave me transformed my life. Yes, it was bad your father died, but I AM and I want to be Your Father. Yes, you were your father's beloved, but NOW YOU ARE MINE. This is what God said, "You are my beloved daughter in whom I am well pleased." Well blow me down. Who could have anticipated that answer? One time a priest was telling me a story about some bullies who were picking on his sister. He went and got some friends, and they set the bullies straight. I opened my mouth and said, "Oh, I wish I had a father and a brother!" The priest responded, "This poor girl does not know who she is!" Right. I came to understand, God is my Father, and Jesus is my Brother. I was not fatherless. I was not brotherless. And God has given me many brothers who are also human creatures for which I am grateful. Anonymous, if you would like to pursue this sort of formation where you understand your unique identity in Christ, go to solt.org and check out Disciples of Jesus and Mary. It's a Catholic program, but any Christian can benefit with this formation in prayer, discernment and discipleship. Lawrence and I have benefitted from the formation since 1991, and this blog is the fruit of our prayer developed in that program. God bless you. Susan Fox