Love: The Sacrifice of the New Covenant
Readings: 1st: Dt 6, 2-6; Ps 17; 2nd: Heb 7, 23-28; Gos: Mk 12, 28-34
This brief reflection was written by Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans). He is a missionary in Puerto Rico. He is the Parish Priest of Parroquia la Resurrección del Senor, Canóvanas, and the Major Superior of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit (Spiritans), Circumscription of Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. He was the chancellor of the Diocese of Fajardo Humacao, Puerto Rico. Fr. Canice is a member of the Academy of Homiletics. For more details and comments contact him at; firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
Today, the thirty-first Sunday of ordinary time, the church continues to lead us to Christ, the eternal high priest of the new covenant. The basis of this new covenant is the sacrifice of love. Christ offered this sacrifice, which gave perfect glory to the Father. So, as His followers (Christians), He calls and expects us to provide this same sacrifice.
As a Jew, Christ himself prayed this same prayer. So, he uses these exact words in today’s gospel. It is both a call and a reminder of the unity and greatness of our God. Hence, it is a call to be faithful to God through the sacrifice of love. To obey God is to love Him!
The second reading is a continuation of the discourse on the eternal priesthood of Christ. The letter to the Hebrews contrasts the priesthood of Christ with that of the old testament. In obedience to his Father’s will, Christ offered the greatest sacrifice of love with his own life. It was necessary for Him to die, to save us (1 John 2:2; Heb 10: 10.14).
However, the significant difference is that the old covenant’s priesthood was terminated and conquered by death. On the contrary, Christ defeated and conquered death through his resurrection and ascension into heaven. There, he remains our eternal high priest.
By obeying the father’s will, Christ remained holy and innocent. He not only loved the father, but he loved us. “Greater love has no one than this: To lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8).
In today’s gospel, Christ summarized the ten commandments into two. With the same words used by Moses, He repeated the same call in our first reading: “Hear, O Israel! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul.” Then, he amplified it by adding: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Very important!
Without downplaying or denying the first commandment’s priority, I think that the second is more challenging to fulfill humanly speaking. If we can obey the second, then we can, and have indeed observed the first. This is because God lives in our neighbor. We cannot hate or harm our neighbor for any reason, and still claim we love God or his commandments.
Unfortunately, due to the natural human instinct of self-preservation, pride, and selfishness (the “ego” or “I”), it seems practically impossible to love neither God nor our neighbor. However, Christ is not asking us to do what He could not do. He overcame all these enemies of love. Any Christian who overcomes these enemies will love sincerely.
The good news is that Christ knows it is possible. If it were not so, He would not have commanded us to love. So, to love God and our neighbor as ourselves is a “debt,” we owe and must pay (Rom 13: 8). It is the sacrifice of the new covenant, which the new people of God, and indeed, every “born again” child of God must offer.
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Finally, this may not necessarily mean dying on the cross as Christ did, but it is possible to demonstrate it through small, but concrete gestures like a sincere smile, good words, and charity. It may not only mean doing something extraordinary but also doing something simple. So, like Christ, our eternal high priest, when we offer this sacrifice and debt of love that gives perfect glory to God, we can sing with the psalmist: “I love you, Lord, my strength.”
Peace be with you!