A Homily for the 30th Sunday
in Ordinary Time (Year A)
By Fr. Ben Drapeau, CJM
An English writer, by the name of Leigh Hunt, wrote a poem entitled, “Abou Ben Adhem and the angel.” It serves as a kind of meditation on love of God and love of neighbor. It goes like this:
Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."
The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.
This poem makes the point that true love of God and true love of our fellow human beings are like two sides of the same coin. Jesus confirmed that in today’s Gospel.
There is a philosopher from Athens, Aristides, who lived in the second century. He admired the followers of Jesus and he defended them in a letter that he wrote to the emperor Hadrian (circa 117-138).
“Christians love one another. They never fail to help widows; they save orphans from those who would hurt them. If one of them has something, he freely gives to the one who has nothing without boasting. If they see a stranger, Christians take him home and are happy as though he were a real brother.”
“If they hear that one of them is in jail or persecuted for professing the name of their redeemer, they all give him what he needs and, if it is possible to redeem him, they set him free.”
“And if there is among them any poor or naked, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply the needy.”
Aristides became a believer because of what he witnessed.
Already, in the first reading, we heard God giving his people concrete examples of how the love of neighbor is supposed to be put into practice: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien… You shall not wrong any widow or orphan…If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not demand interest from him.”
If Aristides were among us here today, how might he describe the worldwide Christian community? How might he describe our parish community? Hopefully he would be able to write things somewhat similar to what he wrote about the early Christians. Yes our world Is different, but Jesus’ teaching has not changed.
Our lifestyle must witness to the religion we claim to belong to. All our professed love for God is empty rhetoric without actions. Love of God and love of neighbor are one commandment.