|SUNDAY HOMILIES FOR YEAR B|
|By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp|
|Homily for Baptism of the Lord - On the Epistle|
The Test of True Love
|Isaiah 52:1-11||1 John 5:1-9||Mark 1:7-11|
There is a story of a wealthy man who had a double tragedy. His wife died in childbirth and the boy that she gave birth to was mentally handicapped. He hired a nurse to take care of the child. The nurse raised the child like her own son. The boy, however, died in his early teens. Heartbroken, the rich man died soon after. The man’s will could not be found and so the state decided to put the man’s estate and belongings up for sale. The old nurse had very little money and there was one thing she wanted more than any other – a framed photo of the boy she had nursed and loved. No one else wanted the picture, so she got it for just one dollar. She took the picture home and began to clean it up. As she did so, a piece of paper fell out from the wooden frame. It was the rich man’s will. It stated that all his wealth and estate would go to anyone who loved his son enough to buy his picture. The sales were halted and everything was returned to the nurse, whose dedication to the boy was happily rewarded.
Many Christians include in their new year resolutions to grow in their relationship with God. They resolve to serve God more faithfully, to grow in God’s love. What is often lacking is such resolutions is an equal determination to improve our relationship with our neighbours, to grow in our love for others. In today’s 2nd reading from the 1st Letter of John, we are told that love of God and love of neighbour are two sides of the same coin. We cannot have the one without having the other also.
John begins by reminding us of the mystery that took place when we believed. By believing in Christ we became children of God. By baptism into Christ we became sons and daughter of a large family, the family of God. From that moment on, God became our father in a special way, and all other children of God became our brothers and sisters. Each time we say that special prayer of God’s children, the Our Father, we are in effect saying that God’s chilren everywhere are our brothers and sisters. Just as it is hypocritical to say we love a parent without loving his or her child, so it is hypocritical to profess love of God without equally professing love for all of God’s children.
“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the parent loves the child” (1 John 5:1).
A man who wants to befirend a woman has little chance of success if he does not also befirend her dog, not to talk of her child, if she has any. In the same way, our chances of getting along with God are slim if we are not ready to associate with any of God’s children, our own brothers and sisters in the one family of God.
We have mentioned one set of hypocrites, namely, those who say they love God without making any effort to love their fellow children of God. There is another set of hypocrites, those who claim to love their fellow human beings while shutting themselves off from a personal love of God. People like that may be models of philanthropy but not of Christian love. True Christian love must have both vertical and horizontal dimensions. As John tells us, the test for a genuine love of neighbour is when the one who claims to love neighbour also strives to love God and obey God’s commandment.
“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments” (1 John 5:2).
In baptism we committed ourselves to serving God and obeying His commandments. As we celebrate the Baptism of Our Lord, today, we are reminded of the greatest of all of God’s commandments, which we vowed to keep.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Mathew 22:37-40).
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