Sunday, Oct. 23, is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time ( Year A, Cycle I) and Mission Sunday.
Exodus 22:20-26; Psalms 18:2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40
Today’s Gospel is very clear about what Christianity entails: “Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. … Love your neighbor as yourself.”
On Saturday, Oct. 22, the Church gave us an excellent example of that kind of love: It was the first-ever feast day of Blessed John Paul II.
What does it mean to love God with all your heart?
We saw it in Blessed John Paul II, who had a heart that embraced all people. We can never forget his visit in 1987, when he visited Los Angeles. April was present when he embraced Tony Melendez, the guitar player who lost his arms and plays with his feet. Or his visit to San Francisco that year, where Tom was living. Pope John Paul II embraced an AIDS patient, holding him tight to his heart and teaching us not to reject the suffering. John Paul spent his papacy teaching that lesson all around the world, making 104 foreign trips, more than all previous popes combined, embracing the world.
The word “courage” means “having heart.” The Pope was famous for the saying of Christ that he made his own: “Be Not Afraid.” Loving God with all his heart for John Paul meant being unafraid to do his will: He hid from Nazis to become a seminarian, when he could have been killed; when he became bishop, he faced the communist authorities in Poland, carefully advancing the rights of the Church; when he became Pope, he visited Poland and rallied his people, which we now know led to an attempt on his life.
What does it mean to love God with all your soul? We saw this throughout Blessed John Paul II’s life. As a child, he lost his family members one by one, starting with his mother when he was 9, then his only sibling, the brother he greatly admired, when he was 11. He lost his father at age 19 and spent the night by his bedside praying. As he lost the earthly figures in his life, John Paul II clung closer to God.
As Holy Father, his prayer habits were intense and insistent. He spent hours with God whenever he could and built chapel time into his visits when he traveled the world. Those who saw him pray say he would become so lost in prayer that he would groan softly. At the end of his life, one nurse reported that his last words were a prayer to the Holy Spirit that his father taught him.
What does it mean to love God with all your mind? Blessed John Paul II’s whole life was marked by his studies. He studied philosophy, theology, languages, poetry and theater. His writings about Divine Mercy, the Rosary and the Eucharist fed Catholics spiritually. He also contributed to the Church major works addressing the major intellectual challenges of our day: the theology of the body, truth and morality (Veritatis Splendor), economics and social teaching (Centesimus Annus), higher education (Ex Corde Ecclesiae), faith and reason (Fides et Ratio).
Because of his commitment to study and the life of the mind, the Church will never be the same.
Today, the Gospel challenges each of us to love God like he did.
What can we do to love God with all of our heart, embracing his people with courage and tenderness? There are many opportunities to serve others in our parish and in our community.
What can we do to better love God with all our soul, committing ourselves to prayer? We all have opportunities to pray more: We can make more visits to the chapel and increase our commitment to the daily Rosary.
What can we do to love God with all our mind? Spiritual reading should be a part of every Catholic’s life, and there are many good books to choose from: by Scott Hahn, Patrick Madrid, Dwight Longenecker and many others.
The Church released an official opening prayer for the Mass of Blessed John Paul II. We can make it our own as we seek to imitate his teaching: “We pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind.”
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.