Love and the Lapsed

User's Guide to Oct. 26


Sunday, Oct. 26, is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Nov. 1 is All Saints’ Day, but it is not a holy day of obligation because it falls on a Saturday.

Mass Readings
Exodus 22:20-26; Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40

Our Take
In a recent poll that the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., commissioned, researchers asked Catholics why they had left or stayed in the Church. The lapsed often left for reasons having to do with human relationships: “My child came out as a homosexual.” “The Church does not let you take Communion if you are divorced and remarried.” “My parish was a cold place.” The faithful stayed, usually, for reasons having to do with their relationship with God: “Our Lord gives me comfort.” “I attend to be close to Jesus.” “Our faith is an integral part of who we are.”

In today’s Gospel, the Lord gives the two chief commandments, and we can trace all the problems in the Church to this day to the failure to follow both together. Said Jesus: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Love of God and neighbor is the glue that holds the Church together. Without love of God, the Church is just a club; without the love of neighbor, the Church is just a theological society.

Getting this right is crucially important because when God became man he united two disparate things: divine perfection and human frailty. When he chose to make the Church his chosen instrument of salvation, he hid his Real Presence behind the appearance of bread, his Divine Mercy behind the face of a priest and his saving word in the voices of sinners.

The only way to bridge the gap is to love. We must love God; we must love mankind.

It is hard for some to love God. His ways are not our ways, and many reject his doctrines before giving them a chance. The lapsed Catholics who answered the poll often found the Church’s rules to be rigid, inhuman and a source of sadness. We who follow the Church’s teachings know that they are in fact lifelines, but we don’t always act like the Good News is Good News — and we don’t always share it with others.

A longtime friend of ours, Gwen Grundman, recently posted on Facebook a nice summation of what our attitudes should be: “Instead of asking if others are following the rules, ask yourself if you’re loving them. God gave us rules to protect us, not to condemn others by them. They need God’s love, and if it doesn’t come through you, who will they experience it from?”

This seems to be the kind of believer St. Paul was. In the second reading, he is able to tell the Thessalonians, “You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord.” Paul and his crew treated these people charitably, and love of God followed. We should live and interact with others such that we will be able to say: “You know and love Christ because of the way we knew and loved you.”

Tom and April Hoopes write from  Atchison, Kansas,

where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.