Sixth Sunday In Ordinary Time (February 12, 2017)

Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Without it life is wasted time
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine.
Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world what is fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be.

Bring me a higher love, bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love, where’s that higher love I keep thinking of?

- sung by Steve Winwood

In today’s Gospel Jesus calls us to a “higher” love. Jesus urges us to avoid practicing or pursuing spiritual minimalism, i.e., looking to do only the bare minimum of what is required: living life by the “good enough” method. Jesus clearly raises the bar when he tells his listeners that it isn’t enough to avoid killing your neighbor; you must avoid growing angry with – or holding a grudge against – your neighbor. Indeed, you must be reconciled with your neighbor. It isn’t enough to avoid committing adultery; we must also avoid looking others in ways that objectify or discount them for our own gratification or advantage. Indeed, rather than waste your time by looking at others your time would be better spent by examining yourself. It isn’t enough to avoid making a false oath; you should avoid putting yourself in any situation in which you would feel obliged to swear to anything. Simply say what you mean, and mean what you say.

Jesus’ “higher love” is really at the heart of Francis’ notion of “devotion.” He wrote: “Genuine, living devotion presupposes love of God, and hence it is simply true love of God. Yet it is not always love as such. Inasmuch as divine love adorns the soul, it is called grace, which makes us pleasing to God’s Divine Majesty. Inasmuch as it strengthens us to do good, it is called charity. When it has reached a degree of perfection at which it not only make us do good but also do the good carefully, frequently and promptly, it is called devotion…In addition, it arouses us to do quickly and lovingly as many good works as possible, both those commanded and those merely counseled or inspired.” (IDL, Part 1, Ch. 1)

For his part, St. Francis de Sales also challenges us to avoid spiritual minimalism. It isn’t good enough to avoid lying; we must be truthful. It isn’t good enough to avoid gluttony; we must be disciplined. It isn’t good enough to avoid being parsimonious; we must be generous. It isn’t good enough to avoid injuring others; we must heal others.

God, help us to live this higher love. Help us to avoid trying to simply ‘get by’ in life; help us to understand what it means to truly live…by fully loving.