daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, Third Week of Lent, March 09, 2018
Hosea 14:2-10, Psalm 80, Mark 12:28-34

Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.


"And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he [Jesus] answered them well, asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?' Jesus answered, ‘The first is, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these'" (Mark 12:28-31).

Today, when Jesus is asked which commandment is the first of all, he teaches us his first and greatest commandment. Then, although not asked about it, he adds a second greatest commandment as well.

Many people today are looking for guidance to show them how to live a life of deeper spirituality. They are looking for and trying to discover the basic principles to guide them in living a more spiritual life.

There is so much to discourage sincere Catholics today when they look at the official Church and see so much corruption and worldliness in its present-day doctrinal and moral teaching, even at the very highest levels of the Church and among prominent cardinals and bishops in various countries.

People are therefore asking, "Where can we turn for authentic spiritual, doctrinal, and moral teaching and guidance today?" Today we can no longer look to our Church leaders, as we once did in the past. So where can we look now? Where can we find a true and sure guide for doctrine, morality, and the basic principles of a deeper spirituality? The leaders we once looked to with such confidence are failing us terribly today and are scandalizing us, rather than inspiring us, with their novel and confusing teaching.

The primary place where we can and should look for spiritual, doctrinal, and moral guidance today is where we always looked for it, namely in the word of God, which is the Scriptures, especially the New Testament, which presents the basic principles of Christian belief, morality, and spirituality that are normative for all times.

After that, we can look at the authentic Magisterium or official teaching of the Church, which is teaching that is harmonious with the Scriptures and with previous authentic official Church teaching.

If present-day Church teaching is ambiguous so that no one is sure what it teaches, and bishops around the world are interpreting it in opposite ways, it is not authentic Magisterium, for it doesn't clearly teach anything. And if, furthermore, what it seems to teach contradicts the clear teaching of the New Testament and previous clear and unambiguous authentic Magisterium, then such teaching is not true Magisterium. So when we have confusing, unclear "Magisterium" that no one knows for sure what it is trying to teach, and which bishops contradict each other about what it teaches, and when what it sounds like it is teaching clearly contradicts the New Testament and previous authentic Magisterium, and when our leaders refuse to clarify the confusion - which is our situation today - what are sincere, faithful Catholics supposed to do? They are being denied the true and authentic teaching and guidance that they need. Their leaders are not giving it to them.

Since this is the situation that we are now living in in the Church today, what should we do? We should go back to the word of God, which is God's clear revelation to us, and which the Church should be basing all its teachings on.

And today's gospel provides us with one of the most important texts to guide us in faithfully living out our Christian life, giving us the basic and most important principle of Christian spirituality, which is that we should love God with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength. This is Jesus' first and most important commandment, and it is taken from an Old Testament text (Deuteronomy 6:5) that the Jews recited twice every day, the great Shema prayer. The New Testament is then filled with further guidance on how to live according to this first and greatest commandment if we are seeking a life of Christian perfection, that is, a life of greater spirituality.

Jesus says, "Whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save" (Mark 8:35 NKJV). We are to lose our life for Christ's sake in this world, not falsely try to save it in a worldly way by filling ourselves with unnecessary worldly pleasures that only weigh us down physically, mentally, and spiritually so that we are constantly distracted from the Lord and unable to concentrate on him, for we scatter our interests and affective energy in so many different directions that we could hardly be said to love God with all our heart and soul, mind and strength. By trying to save our life in this world by living a life of unnecessary worldly pleasure, we lose our life with God and fail miserably with regard to Jesus' first and most important commandment.

The way to live the first commandment is to lose our life for Christ's sake and for the gospel's sake. In other words, we should live a simple life, a life of simplicity and evangelical poverty, eating simple, basic, balanced, healthy fresh food, avoiding delicacies and unhealthy, fancy desserts, etc. Our attention can then more readily be centered on God, for we are then seeking all our delight in him.

If we are seeking to live a life of deeper spirituality, we will also avoid superficial and distracting pleasure trips, secular movies, games, etc., and focus our life on the Lord in dedication to him and his work of preaching the gospel and ministering to other people for the love of God.

We should renounce all else but him. We should live for him alone. "Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke 6:20). "But woe to you that are rich, for you have received your consolation" (Luke 6:24). The poor are those that are poor in worldly goods, worldly pleasures, recreations, and entertainments, but are rich in God. We are to have only one treasure, the Lord (Matthew 6:19-21), and we are to serve only one master, the Lord, (Matthew 6:24).

We are in search of a treasure, a deeper life in God. To get it, Jesus tells us, we must renounce everything else, just like the man who had to sell all that he had in order to be able to buy a plot of land containing a buried treasure that he had discovered so that he can obtain possession of it (Matthew 13:44). We too must abandon our worldly ways of living and eating and our unnecessary worldly pleasures if we want to obtain the treasure of a more spiritual life.

We have to take the narrow gate and the narrow way of life of the few, not the broad and easy gate and wide road of the many that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). A worldly way of living and eating is the broad and easy way of the many that leads to destruction. The way of simplicity and evangelical poverty is the narrow way of life of the few. "Enter by the narrow gate," Jesus tells us (Matthew 7:13).

We should avoid the superficial, pleasurable, worldly way of the many, the pleasurable life of the rich, for "Truly, I say to you, it will be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:23-24). A rich person, surrounded by worldly pleasures, entertainments, and daily banquets, is hardly able to love God with all his heart and soul, mind and strength. He is far too dissipated and distracted by all his unnecessary worldly pleasures and entertainments for that. It is far better for us to live the life of the apostles and ask the Lord with St. Peter, "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" (Matthew 19:27).


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