We are the recipients of this love and forgiveness and today’s readings beg the question of us: how do we respond to this love and forgiveness which is so lavishly poured out upon us?
The old woman, a widow, who throws two, almost worthless, copper coins into the temple coffers, under the doubtless sneers of the temple guards and temple priests, causes Jesus to proclaim her actions as heroic because she gave not from her excess but from her “want”. She gave all she had to live on, to God. She surely gave from her love for God, all that she had to give. It was a great sacrifice that she was making out of her love for God.
The Temple in Jerusalem was the special place for all Jews of Jesus’ time to go and make ritual sacrifices to make amends for their transgressions of the laws and commandments, they also went there to offer sacrifice in thanks giving for prayers answered, and as a sign of their love and devotion of God. These sacrifices were important in their relationship with God.
When I was growing up and something was not going my way or I was having to do something I really did not want to do, I was often told by my parents and by the nuns at school to “offer it up”, in other words to make of it a sacrifice to
God. This concept of offering up a suffering or difficult experience for a loved one or for God seems not to be as
acceptable of a practice today as it once was. Certainly not as it was in the time of Jesus. For sacrifice was one of the main ways of showing your sorrow, your commitment and or your love to God.
And yet last weekend’s Gospel openly and clearly went against this tradition and proclaimed that to love God “with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength and to love your neighbor as your self is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” “And when Jesus saw that (the scribe) answered with understanding, he said to him, you are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
What is so critically important for us to come to believe and accept deep within our hearts is that we are deeply and passionately loved by God, just as we are. I believe that if we can come to embrace this ancient truth, deep in our hearts then we can truly love our neighbors as ourselves, regardless of where they come from, where they live, what they may have done to us, what color their skin is, who they love or what their politics are...through accepting God’s deep and passionate love of us, just as we are, we will be nothing less than completely transformed as to who we and how we live in this world we inhabit...it will even change how we care for the earth that God so deeply loves.
So loving God with my whole being and my neighbor as myself is in fact the key to the Kingdom of God!
How might I respond to this lavish love and forgiveness which is so freely poured out upon me?