Preacher’s Sketchbook: Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

October 29, 2012

Each week, a Dominican member of the Province of St. Joseph’s Preaching Advisory Board prepares this Preacher’s Sketchbook in anticipation of the upcoming Sunday Mass. The idea of the Preacher’s Sketchbook is to take quotations from the authority of the Church–the Pope, the Fathers of the Church, documents of the Councils, the saints–that can help spark ideas for the Sunday homily. Just as an artist’s sketchbook preserves ideas for later elaboration, so we hope the Preacher’s Sketchbook will provide some ideas for homiletical elaboration.


Saint John Chrysostom

Thou shalt love, he says, not: Thou shalt fear. For it is a greater thing to love than to fear. To fear is the character of slaves: to love, of children. Fear springs from coercion; love from liberty. He who serves God in fear will indeed escape punishment, but does not receive the reward of justice: because he did good, not freely, but because of fear. God therefore does not wish that men should fear him, in a servile manner, as an owner, but love him as a Father; since he gave men the Spirit of adoption. To love God with thy whole heart means the heart is not inclined to the love of any one thing more than it is to the love of God. To love God with thy whole soul means to keep the soul steadfast in truth, and to be firm in faith. For one is the love of the heart, another the soul’s love, the love of the heart is in a certain measure carnal; as we also love God with our bodily heart which we cannot do unless we withdraw our hearts from the love of worldly things. The love of the heart therefore is felt in the heart. The love of the soul is not felt, but perceived; for it consists in a judgment of the soul. For he who believes that with God is all good, and that outside of him there is nothing of good, he loves God with his whole heart. To love God with thy whole mind means that all the faculties are at the disposition of God: he whose understanding serves God, whose wisdom concerns God, whose thought dwells on the things of God, whose memory is mindful only of his blessing, loves God with his whole mind.

Saint Catherine of Siena, Dialogue

However, no one should judge that he has greater perfection, because    he performs great penances, and gives himself in excess to the slaying    of his body, than he who does less, inasmuch as neither virtue nor    merit consists therein; for otherwise he would be in an evil case, who,    from some legitimate reason, was unable to do actual penance. Merit    consists in the virtue of love alone, flavored with the light of true    discretion, without which the soul is worth nothing. And this love    should be directed to Me endlessly, boundlessly, since I am the Supreme    and Eternal Truth. The soul can therefore place neither laws nor limits    to her love for Me; but her love for her neighbor, on the contrary, is    ordered in certain conditions. The light of discretion (which proceeds    from love, as I have told you) gives to the neighbor a conditioned    love, one that, being ordered aright, does not cause the injury of sin    to self in order to be useful to others, for, if one single sin were    committed to save the whole world from Hell, or to obtain one great    virtue, the motive would not be a rightly ordered or discreet love, but    rather indiscreet, for it is not lawful to perform even one act of    great virtue and profit to others, by means of the guilt of sin. Holy    discretion ordains that the soul should direct all her powers to My    service with a manly zeal, and, that she should love her neighbor with    such devotion that she would lay down a thousand times, if it were    possible, the life of her body for the salvation of souls, enduring    pains and torments so that her neighbor may have the life of grace, and    giving her temporal substance for the profit and relief of his body.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, Opusculum 62

Among the ways of God there is another perfection; it is that he takes care of all creatures. Two sparrows sell for only a penny, even so not one is forgotten by him. He maintains all the living in their being and supplies unceasingly all their necessities. He takes care of all inert matter, the herbs and the trees that nourish themselves by it, and of all the animals, great and small, who dwell upon the earth, in the air or in the waters. But above all he takes care of men, created in his image and likeness. He made them members of his beloved Son and temples of the Holy Spirit. He has sent to each one an angel to watch over him. He gives life to them in the precious flesh and blood of his only Son. He provided for the necessities of all, and admirably too for the temporal needs of sinners, his enemies, still more abundantly than for the needs of his friends. He takes care of the souls in Purgatory in permitting that they be rescued by the desires of the Church triumphant, by the prayers of the Church militant, and by the oblations of priests, even when they offer them unworthily, and therefore would, themselves, deserve to be condemned. And while prayers, almsgiving, fasting and pilgrimages, accomplished without charity, are insufficient to efface the sins of those who practise these devotions, it is, however, permitted piously to believe that such works, offered for the souls in Purgatory, may obtain for them, by an effect of divine goodness, some relief and even the remission of their sufferings, on account of the merits that they had here below. Finally, God takes great care of the holy angels, whom he has established in such bliss, and whom he has forever preserved from all experience of evil. Let us also care for creatures, using each one according to the order willed by God, lest at the day of judgment they testify against us. Let us care for all men, assuming intimately their joys and griefs, seeking to restrain them from wrong doing, and to comfort them in the Lord, by our desires, our prayers and our good examples. Let us care for the souls in Purgatory, applying ourselves frequently to relieving their sufferings by works of mercy. Let us care for the angels in order that they shall not, by our fault, be deprived of the joy they should receive from the progress that, thanks to their good care and to their protection, we make in virtue. And last and above everything, let us take tender care of God himself, doing everywhere and always what he most desires us to do and that for which he has particularly destined us.

 Catechism of the Catholic Church

2093: Faith in God’s love encompasses the call and the obligation to respond with sincere love to divine charity. The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him. 2094: One can sin against God’s love in various ways: – indifference neglects or refuses to reflect on divine charity; it fails to consider its prevenient goodness and denies its power. – ingratitude fails or refuses to acknowledge divine charity and to return him love for love. – lukewarmness is hesitation or negligence in responding to divine love; it can imply refusal to give oneself over to the prompting of charity. – acedia or spiritual sloth goes so far as to refuse the joy that comes from God and to be repelled by divine goodness. – hatred of God comes from pride. It is contrary to love of God, whose goodness it denies, and whom it presumes to curse as the one who forbids sins and inflicts punishments.

 Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est

Having reflected on the nature of love and its meaning in biblical faith, we are left with two questions concerning our own attitude: can we love God without seeing him? And can love be commanded?… He has loved us first and he continues to do so; we too, then, can respond with love. God does not demand of us a feeling which we ourselves are incapable of producing. He loves us, he makes us see and experience his love, and since he has “loved us first”, love can also blossom as a response within us. In the gradual unfolding of this encounter, it is clearly revealed that love is not merely a sentiment. Sentiments come and go. A sentiment can be a marvellous first spark, but it is not the fullness of love. Earlier we spoke of the process of purification and maturation by which eros comes fully into its own, becomes love in the full meaning of the word. It is characteristic of mature love that it calls into play all man’s potentialities; it engages the whole man, so to speak. Contact with the visible manifestations of God’s love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being loved. But this encounter also engages our will and our intellect. Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the “yes” of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all- embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never “finished” and complete; throughout life, it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself. Idem velle atque idem nolle—to want the same thing, and to reject the same thing—was recognized by antiquity as the authentic content of love: the one becomes similar to the other, and this leads to a community of will and thought. The love-story between God and man consists in the very fact that this communion of will increases in a communion of thought and sentiment, and thus our will and God’s will increasingly coincide: God’s will is no longer for me an alien will, something imposed on me from without by the commandments, but it is now my own will, based on the realization that God is in fact more deeply present to me than I am to myself. Then self- abandonment to God increases and God becomes our joy (cf. Ps 73 [72]:23-28).  



The 31st Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

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