30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday October 26th 2014 The Greatest Commandment.

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Sunday October 26th 2014 The Greatest Commandment.

Sunday October 26th 2014   30th Sunday in Ordinary Time.   The Greatest Commandment



Once Mother Teresa was asked to sum up in a few words what her spirituality was, she held up one hand and showing five fingers said the following five words, one for each finger;YOU DID IT TO ME. Those five words reveal the heart of this week’s Gospel. Jesus is fully divine but also fully human. We can no longer separate divine love from that of our fellow humans.
“If anyone says, “I love God”, and hates his brother, he is a liar” 1 Jn 4:20
The Pharisees are proposing a kind of a game to Jesus, maybe a bit of a trap. They ask this question; which commandment is the greatest?
In the Judaism of Jesus’ time there were hundreds and hundreds of laws, rules and regulations, governing almost every aspect of life. So it was a common question for Rabbi’s to ask one another, what’s the greatest? What’s the central commandment? What’s the organizing principle of the law? That’s the question being asked to Jesus himself. And he gives his famous answer;
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment”. And then He adds this (and it makes all the difference); “The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Everything else is subordinate to those two commandments. That’s the inner logic of the law, it’s finally about love because love is what God is. If you follow every detail of the law, without love it means nothing.
Then the second commandment comes into play; if you love God and hate your neighbor, it’s worth nothing. Your love of God in fact is phony.
St. Augustine said to his students; “If you want to know the principle by which you should interpret the whole of scripture, this is it, if you are ever confused by what something means in scripture, use this as an interpretive guide, all the bible is meant to bring us to the point where we love God, and because we love God we love our neighbor”. Everything else is commentary.
Why are these two laws so tightly linked in Christianity? There is a very simple answer; because of Jesus Himself. Who stands at the heart of our faith? Christ, who is the God/Man. Christ who in His own person, is both divine and human. Therefore it becomes impossible for a Christian to love God without loving humanity, because we love Christ. To love Him is to reverence both of these laws at the same time because of who He is. This is the key.
What does the coming together of these two loves look like? Look at the saints, they will always tell you. The lives of people like Saint Francis, San Vincent de Paul, Mother Teresa are living lessons in love of God and neighbor being one.
Do you know the story of Rose Hawthorne? Rose Hawthorne as the 3rd child of the great American writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The author of “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables” and all those wonderful and mysterious short stories.

scarlett letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne

She was born in 1851, when her father was at the height of his powers, the “Scarlet Letter” his greatest book comes out 1852.
Later in the 1850’s Nathaniel became a US Consul in Liverpool, here in England. And he moved his young family over to England. And so Rose Hawthorne grew up in pretty elite circumstances. She was the daughter of this very famous American writer, who was also a government official, a diplomat. Taking the family to London, Paris, Rome… she moved in very sophisticated circles.
Her rather idyllic childhood came to an end however in 1864, when she was only 13 her famous father died. Her mother died just a few years after that and she found herself as a teenager bereft and a little bit adrift.
She met a man named John Lathrop, and though she was only 20 she married him. They had a child, a son whom she deeply loved, and in some ways the son made up for the loss of her father and mother. But then tragically, as was often the case in the 19th Century, before medicine reached its point of sophistication today, her son died at the age of 4. It sent Rose into a vey deep sadness. She called it “a sadness beyond words”.
Then her husband’s alcoholism began to manifest itself in erratic and irresponsible behavior. And their marriage fell on hard times.
So here is a woman who had a pretty privileged background, but who by her early 20’s had endured an awful lot of sorrow. Loss of parents, loss of a child, and a difficult marriage.
It was around this time, perhaps because of her struggles and suffering, that her spiritual life began to deepen and she took an interest in the Catholic Church. Now this was pretty surprising for a famously protestant family. She had a great thirst of deepening her relationship to God.
A turning point occurred in her life when she heard a story. She was by this time living in New York City. She read the story in the newspaper of a woman who was a seamstress, a fairly well to do financially, but was diagnosed with cancer, doctors determined they could do nothing for her. She exhausted all of financial resources trying to find a cure, nothing happened. She became increasingly desperate; finally she exiled to this out of the way shelter for cancer victims. Mind you at the time cancer was seen a bit like AIDS is today. It was seen a very contagious and dangerous disease, and those who had it were quarantined and marginalized.
Rose read that story and it broke her heart. She got down on her knees and she begged God, “Show me the way, to do something to help these people. Help me oh Lord to help them”. Now this is the connection, here is the point of contact between those two laws. She got down on her knees….. ”Love the Lord your God”…..and “Love thy neighbor” .…”Oh Lord show me the way to help these people in need”.
That was the turning point in her life.
What did she do? She realized she had very little training in nursing or medicine. So she took a course, and began to work at a hospital specializing in cancer patients. On her first day there she met a woman there named Mary Watson. Mary Watson was a cancer patient with a very advanced case of facial cancer. Which had literally eaten away the central portion of her face. Everyday they had to change the dressings and bandages on her face. And they say that even experienced nurses found the sight of Mary Watson’s face so repulsive that they couldn’t stand it.
Rose Hawthorne went into the room and she met her. The ravages of her cancer did not dismay her. In fact in inspired her to continue the work that she had undertaken.
After her training she rented an apartment in the lower side of Manhattan. At the time it was a very poor area, filled with immigrants. And she simply decided to take cancer victims into her own home and there she cared for them until they died.

sick child freeparking flickr

Caring for the sick

Here is woman from a pretty sophisticated back ground, used to the finer things in life. And now her whole day is spent caring for cancer victims who were abandoned and isolated.
Mary Watson was eventually discharged from her hospital. They said we can’t do anything more for you. In her desperation she called Rose Hawthorne, “would you take me in?” and of course she did.
In time cancer victims from all over New York became to come to Rose’s apartment. Those neglected by their families and abandoned by the hospital system. And as always happens in the lives of the saints, when a great work is being done in the name of God, people come to help and volunteer like bees to a flower. They swarmed and they gathered to help Rose Hawthorne with her work.
Her husband from whom she had been separated because of his drinking, eventually died. This freed Rose to do something she had only dreamed of now for many years. To become a religious nun.She and a few companions joined the Dominican order, she received a formation and became a Dominican sister.
In time she got enough funds from friends and donors to build a larger hospital. She called it saint Rose’s hospital. And there she continued to care for cancer patients.
In time they formed their own branch of the Dominican order, devoted precisely to caring for those who were the weakest and sickest. They still exist and are known as the “Hawthorne Domincans”.
Rose died in 1926 at the age of 75. She is being considered for canonization.
Saints are like fire, when we get close to them we also catch the fire of God’s love. I hope the story of Rose Hawthorne lights a fire in you. Her story was read by Dorothy Day and it changed her life.
Rose’s life show us that these two great commandments of the Lord Jesus, come together in the saints. She got down on her knees and said; “Lord show me a way to help them”.
The love of God pushes us to love our brothers and sisters in humanity. This is because Christ is both divine and human. You can’t love God therefore without loving those in need. Let this commandment of the Lord sink into our hearts.