Posted by: matt25 | June 6, 2011

What Must I Do? Love God and Love Others.

Yesterday after Mass, my first as the only deacon serving, my friend Dave asked me for a copy of my first public homily homily that I gave at my Mass of Thanksgiving. I told him with a chuckle that I could give him a copy of what I wrote but not of what I said.  They are similar but I don’t read verbatim what I write when I speak, I use the written form as a guide.  Since Dave was interested I thought someone else might be as well so here it is.  If you are moved to read it I pray that part of it will resonate with you and encourage you in your relationships with God and others.

The scriptures that were part of the liturgy that day are found here

Acts 8:5-8, 14-17Ps 66:1-3, 4-5, 6-7, 16, 201 Pt 3:15-18 , Jn 14:15-21

Today we have a marvelous shift in our readings as we continue to celebrate Easter. We begin to focus on the Holy Spirit in anticipation of the feast of Pentecost that is just a couple of weeks away.

In our first reading from Acts we hear how the apostles are sent to pray over the Samaritans so they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. My friends, this is not just a nice story in a book. This is something that happens right now… today… all over the world. It happened yesterday in Buffalo.

I am here to tell you that The Holy Spirit of God is alive and present in my life! Some of you were able to make the trip yesterday and share in that moment when our bishop laid hands upon me and prayed for me that I might receive the Holy Spirit in the sacrament of Holy Orders. It was an amazing experience.

But as amazing as it was, it was not the first time I was able to have an experience of the Holy Spirit moving in my life. I am willing to bet that many of you have as well.

Can I get a witness?

I should warn you that I will occasionally ask for your participation in my homilies. This is one of those times. Let’s see how this will work. Everybody who is here today raise your hand! Okay good… some of you are here and some of you are apparently arriving later.. You can put your hands down.

I am going to give you a few examples where I have experienced the Holy Spirit in my life, if you have as well, please raise your hand and keep it up.

Raise your hand if you have ever gone to a healing mass and rested in the Spirit or if you know someone who received a miracle.

Raise your hand if you felt close to God in the Eucharist, at the Baptism of your baby, or in the power of prayer.

Raise your hand if you have ever experienced the presence of God in a sunset, or a sense of peace in the middle of a crisis.

Raise your hand if you have experienced God in some way that that comes to your mind now but I haven’t mentioned.

Can I get a witness? You bet I can…

Look around you, the Holy Spirit has made himself known in so many of our lives and this is a great encouragement.

You can put your hands down now.

Look around again. Where is the witness now? Our experience with God is always with us but sometimes it is pushed from our perception by the busyness of our lives and we need to be reminded.

We need to remind and encourage each other because there will be times in our lives when we feel far from the Holy Spirit. Maybe there will even be seasons in our lives when we doubt the existence of God or wonder whether our faith makes any sense. I know that I most certainly have had those moments.

And that is what the experience of most of us will be in our walk of faith. It will be a journey that will find us at times on the mountaintop, at times in a lush valley, and at times in a parched and weary desert where we don’t know how to take another step.

So the question becomes: How do we cross these spiritual deserts without dying of thirst?

Well, if I knew I was going to have to cross a physical desert,

I would prepare for it ahead of time.  I would make sure that I had the proper clothing.  For certain that I had food and water to take with me… And I would not go alone.

Wouldn’t you agree that if I put a solid effort into my preparations, that my chances of making it to the other side of the desert alive are much greater?

That is the way it is with our life in the Spirit as well. The better our preparations, the more likely it is that we will make it through the desert experiences of life without dying inside.

In fact what did we hear in the Gospel today?

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. I believe that’s our preparation.

That is where we need to focus our attention because it opens the door for us to be able to be receive the 2 things that Jesus promises his apostles at the last supper in John’s Gospel.

He promises that he will not leave them alone, He will ask the Father and the Father will give them the Spirit of Truth, as an advocate.


He promises that He will not leave them orphans, for even though the world will no longer see Him, they will see Him.

But they had to do their part.

Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.

So our part is that we must keep the commandments. Which of course includes the 10 commandments but what does Jesus tell us the greatest commandments are?

In Matthew’s Gospel He said:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

So we must Love God & Love others.

We must make these two things our goal and the focus of our thoughts and actions. And this, our part, our preparation… frees the power of the Holy Spirit to work in our lives!

This love is not a romantic feeling love. It is not an “I love ice cream” kind of love. No!

It is a love that had its ultimate expression in the willing acceptance of the Christ’s acceptance of an agonizing death on the cross. But oh what was unlocked by that ultimate act of love for God and others? The gates of heaven were thrown open for us!

Even today there are people who heroically love God and others to the point of martyrdom, but I don’t think we are called to love to that extent. At least not this week…

But, Fr John mentioned something very interesting to me a few weeks ago. In his study of the Greek language he discovered that the word for martyr is the same as the word for witness. So when I ask “Can I get I witness?” I am in a certain sense asking… “Who is willing to be a martyr?”

I believe that we are called every day to the little martyrdoms of being ridiculed and discriminated against because we love and allow our faith to shape our words and our actions rather than remaining silent uninvolved.

We are called to love in the truth that the world does not accept. We are martyrs for love when we speak out for the unborn, for the imprisoned, for the poor and marginalized, for the elderly and the illegal immigrant…

We are witnesses for love when we go to wakes, hospitals, and nursing homes. We obey the commandment to love by cutting the grass or changing a tire for someone who finds it difficult, or by offering to baby-sit for a single parent or a young couple so they can have a break, or visiting a friend who is sick, taking the time drive someone to the doctor or store because they no longer drive.

We love others by paying attention to them and being present to them.

So how do we love God? The same way. We must pay attention to and make ourselves present to God in prayer… every day.  We are called to pray formal prayers that we have learned and to have less formal conversations with God and especially in find time for silence where we can listen for God.

We are witnesses to love when die to the world and choose to come together in thanksgiving and share our life in the Spirit as we break open the Word and celebrate Eucharist at our sacred meal.

In this way we strengthen and encourage each other as we are in turn strengthened and encouraged.

These are some of the ways that we can keep the greatest commandments… to love God and to love others, and in so doing, allow ourselves to receive the Holy Spirit who wishes to fill our lives.

This is how we can hold in our hearts the message of the Gospel which is shared by a well known poem which I will change slightly for you today.

You promised me Lord,

that if I followed you,

you would walk with me always.

But I know that during

the most trying periods of my life

there will be only one

set of footprints in the sand.

As I cross the deserts of my life

For it is then Lord, when your Spirit will carry me.



  1. Absolutely beautiful and true. Thank you for sharing. God bless you! 🙂

  2. Thank you for you kind words of encouragement. May the Good Lord continue to bless you and your loved ones.

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