Love of God, Neighbour and Self – CAFOD’s 50th Birthday

On Sunday 4th November Bishop Terence Drainey celebrated a mass

of thanksgiving for fifty years of CAFOD and led the prayers of the faithful helping us to keep in mind our deceased loved ones and those who during their lives supported CAFOD and the Church in their mission to bring relief and hope to those affected by poverty around the world.

Around 300 people attended the Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Coulby Newham. We were joined by Neil Thorns, Director of CAFOD’s Advocacy Programme.  Neil thanked all those present for their generous support of CAFOD and gave thanks for those who, during their lives supported CAFOD and left us their example to follow.  Pupils from St Augustin’s Primary School presented Bishop Terry with the Offertory Gifts which included our CAFOD Book of Remembrance. The Diocesan Schola choir led us in our singing providing excellent musical accompaniment. Below is Bishop Terry’s Homily.

Bishop Terry’s Homily

Today we are giving thanks for the work of CAFOD. CAFOD was founded in 1962 on the eve of the Second Vatican Council by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales as a response on behalf of the Catholic Community to the poverty faced by millions of people in the developing world. Over the last fifty years through the agency of CAFOD the Roman Catholic community of England and Wales has responded to countless emergencies around the world and has helped millions of people, affected by natural and human made disasters, to pick up their lives and face the future with hope.

As we begin this mass we can ask ourselves how do we keep Jesus greatest commandment – the love of God, neighbour and self? We ask for mercy and pardon.

Homily:

When I came back from working on the missions in Kenya after six years, I noticed that many of my colleagues with whom I had worked out there always began their sermons with “When I worked on the missions”. It wasn’t just once or twice; it was pretty well every occasion they preached. So I made up my mind that I would never fall into the same sort of trap, that is, beginning my sermon with a phrase like, “When I worked on the missions”.

Even on a day like today when we are celebrating 50 years of CAFOD and are giving thanks for our departed brothers and sisters who have responded to the plight of people affected by poverty all around the world through their prayers and financial generosity; and as we pray that the work of CAFOD will continue to respond generously to the many calls it receives for help and support, it would probably have been very apt to begin the homily with a phrase like “When I worked on the missions”.

Today we are giving thanks for the work of CAFOD which was founded in 1962 on the eve of the Second Vatican Council by the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, as a response on behalf of the Catholic community, to the poverty faced by millions of people in the developing world. Over the last fifty years through the agency of CAFOD, the Roman Catholic community of England and Wales has responded to countless emergencies around the world and has helped millions of people, affected by natural and human made disasters,  to pick up their lives and face the future with hope.

As we begin this mass we can ask ourselves how do we keep Jesus’ greatest commandment – the love of God, neighbour and self?

We can begin by looking at our Gospel for today, for it isn’t very often that Jesus and the scribes seem to get on together. In this passage the scribe tells Jesus that he has spoken well, “what you have said is true.” And Jesus, in return seeing how wisely the scribe had spoken, says to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” So, that is certainly a point to note from the reading. The question that the scribe was asking Jesus was not an unusual opening to a discussion among Jews at the time, and I suspect even today. For the Jews there are 613 laws and people want to know what is the most important of all, which one outweighs all the others. Jesus begins to answer the question by quoting a passage that every Jew would know. In fact we heard it in our first reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy. It is called the Shema, “Listen”, from the first word of the passage; “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” This would not have surprised anyone in the crowd; they would have heard this many times. But before anyone could draw a breath, Jesus adds, “The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” In no uncertain terms, Jesus fuses the love of God, neighbour and self together as one.

“There is no commandment greater than these.” In other words, they are not two commandments but in fact one, both go together, they complement each other. You can’t have one without the other two, love of God, neighbour and self are part of the same reality. Jesus takes the Jewish commandment and shows how it is fulfilled in the Christian message, the Christian way, the Gospel. Later on St John will develop this thought beyond any shadow of doubt; “Anyone who says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, is a liar since a man who does not love the brother that he can see, cannot love God whom he has never seen. So this is the commandment that he has given us, that anyone who loves God must also love his brother.” (1John 4.20-21)

The scribe in our particular passage goes on to develop the idea in a very Christian way, “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.” The very same message has been passed on through generation and generation of the Church and the great saints have preached it in word but more especially in deed. Take St Vincent de Paul, for example; he says: “The service of the poor is to be preferred to all else. If at the time of prayer, medicine or help has to be brought to some poor man, go and do what has to be done with an easy mind…remember the work has been done for God. Charity takes precedence over any rules. (From the Breviary, Vol. 3, Feast of St Vincent, Office of Readings)

Even if we had tried, we could not have chosen better scriptures passages for our celebration today as we give thanks for the work of CAFOD over the last 50 years. It is by supporting such agents of Christian charity that we are able to fulfil the commands of the Gospel.

The Latin word for “self-sacrificing-love” is “caritas” and the umbrella organisation of the international Church which supports and encourages charitable outreach is known as Caritas Internationalis. CAFOD is affiliated to this international outreach and therefore via our support of CAFOD, we are part of this same world-wide outreach. This is one of the ways we fulfil the command of the Gospel and demonstrate our love for God, neighbour and self.

God of love, you have called your people to love you with all their heart, with all their soul, with all their mind, and with all their strength, and to love their neighbour as they love themselves. Because of your great love, you sent Jesus to us to demonstrate that there are no boundaries to love. Help us to imitate his love and to do your will that we may come to share the joys of the Kingdom where you live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen” (Mark G Boyer, Day by Ordinary Day with Luke, St Pauls, Alba House, New York)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s