13th Ordinary Sunday - Year C
Luke 9:51-62

Loving God whole-heartedly

In St Luke’s Gospel today, Jesus is asking us to love God more whole-heartedly. That is, our love for Him should not be in half measures and conditional like I will love God only when I have the time. When we love God, He should be the centre of our lives and the reason and meaning of all that we do daily. If God takes first place in our lives, then we love others not because we want them to love us in return, but we love others because we love God. Allow me to explain with a true story.

Some years ago, Domingo, a Filipino about 32 years of age fell very ill. Both his kidneys were collapsing. He needed a transplant. However, Domingo had two big problems: there was no kidney that matched his blood group, and his family was too poor to afford the operation. Domingo was weakening rapidly. Domingo told his family that he would rather die because he did not want to burden his family with his illness. Indeed, unless miracles happened, Domingo would die.

Domingo’s sister, Maria, was frantic. She was willing to sell her small house that she had worked so hard for so long to own. Should she sell her house, she would only get enough to pay for the initial costs of operation. Maria, with tears in her eyes unveiled her agony to me. I encouraged Maria and her family to pray and to trust God. I also promised her I would try to help her in whatever way I could.

A few days later, blood tests showed that Maria’s 15 year old niece, Jane, had blood that matched that of Domingo’s. Jane was most willing to donate her kidney to her uncle. However, their hopes were dashed. Jane was under age and she was prohibited from donating her kidney.

As I continued to encourage Maria not to give up hope and to continue to pray. Meanwhile, I sought financial help from various people. A couple from Singapore heard of Domingo’s story. This couple have four young children, and they lived in a small HDB flat and had to work very hard to earn a living. They were moved by Domingo’s desperate situation. They donated 2,500 dollars from their small savings for Domingo’s treatment. Together with other generous donors Domingo was able to undergo several dialyses and was eventually able to find a kidney donor and undergo his operation. Some years later, I heard from Maria that Domingo was under medication and was doing well.

The Singapore couple, who gave up a large chunk of their many years of savings for Domingo was not only moved with compassion for Domingo’s suffering. Through learning about Domingo’s sufferings they began to realize how God has blessed their own family so abundantly. They began to see how their own difficulties were so insignificant and small compared to what Domingo and his family had to go through.

Thus, even though Domingo was thousands of miles away they felt deeply that they should reach out to him. Whether they actually knew him or not became secondary. What was more important was that Domingo be saved. Their compassion was real and genuine. I was deeply moved and totally dumbfounded by their Christian charity for Domingo.

This Singaporean couple, witness very powerfully to me what loving Jesus unconditionally means. To them, loving Jesus meant loving Domingo. To them, knowing Jesus meant knowing those who suffered. Indeed, to them, to be worthy of Jesus is to see that Domingo was worth helping. Their concern for Domingo was truly edifying. They wanted to remain anonymous and at the same time they continued to show concern for Domingo’s welfare and the progress of his health situation.

Believe me if I say that over the past 21 years as a Jesuit, I have encountered many similar holy people in the Church. I have also met many sinners who have made radical and total conversions of turning back to God in their fidelity to their marriage and family.

Of course I have also come across broken marriages and sad stories of vocations in our Church. But, on the whole, let me say again, that I believe the faith is very alive in the Church. There are many good and holy people like yourselves. Let us not underestimate the capacity we have in our hearts to love others. The Spirit is more alive in us than we think. Without denying that we are sinners, let us be aware that we are more worthy of God’s love than we think we are.

I mentioned all these to a non-Christian friend recently. He was clearly moved and very surprised. His conclusion was: “I suppose such good people are only found in your Christian Church. As a businessman in the world,” he said, “most of the people I have dealt with cannot really be trusted; they are real sharks waiting for a good opportunity to swallow you up.” In many ways, I am not surprised at what this non-Christian friend of mine said.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I really do not think that I have painted too rosy a picture of our Catholic Church. I truly believe the Holy Spirit is very active in the Church, making us more worthy disciples of Our Lord, if only we allow Him to take over our lives more fully. We have survived for 2000 years and I believe we will continue to survive.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we are inclined to doubt our capacity to trust and love God so generously then, let us remind ourselves that: it is God who gives us the strength we need. We are not relying solely on our own strength; we are dependent on God. However, we must first begin by asking God for more courage to love. We learn about love through loving. We become God’s light and disciple in this world only through shining and only through being a good Christian striving daily to become better.

To conclude, you and I are called to love God more whole-heartedly. We could love in so many ways: a gentle smile, a caring hand, a prayerful concern or a simple sacrifice. The more we allow God’s love to be at the centre of our lives, the more love we will surely have for others.

Let us take Jesus’ message today to heart and put God first and other things in our lives as secondary. When we are able to do this, we can be sure that God will take care of our family and the rest of our needs. This is our mission as Christians; this is our task . . . an uncompromising commitment to love God above all else. Can we do this? Yes, if we are willing to allow God’s strength to carry us through daily.