Homily – October 23

Would you be upset if I told you we will be praying for the soul of Colonel Gaddafi in the prayer of the faithful? Would you wonder why we would pray for such an evil person, a mass murderer, a cruel, heartless, power hungry man who oppressed the people of Libya for over 40 years?

In the gospel we hear how the Pharisees tried to disconcert Jesus by asking him what he considered to be the greatest commandment of the Law. This question was meant to annoy Jesus, make him lose his patience with them. But he kept his cool and recited the Shema to them. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the prayer every devout Jew recites every morning and evening it is the prayer drilled into the memory of every Jewish child. It is the prayer Jesus said every day of life.

Then Jesus adds another law from the Leviticus: “You must love your neighbour as yourself.” These two of are equal importance, they are inseparable. Our love for our neighbour – and our neighbour is anyone who comes into our lives – mirrors our love for God. You cannot have one without the other. Without the love of neighbour, the love of God remains a barren emotion; and without the love of God, love of neighbour is but a refined form of self-love.

We know from our own experience this is not an easy commandment to follow. Our lives are peopled with those who have hurt us, disappointed us, left us, misused us, taken advantage of us. How can we possibly love them, forgive them?

It is not easy and we cannot do it on our own but that is what we are called to do. Maybe we could try to live this greatest commandment this way: I heard of a woman whose prayer went like this: ‘Dear God will you share with me some of the love you have for my husband so that I can put up with him.’ So we can pray for a man like Gadaffi and those people who suffered under him, for he too is a person beloved by God as we all are.