Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and this is Episode 26 of Season 5 for the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 10, 2022. Our Gospel reading is from Luke, Chapter 10, verses 25-37.
There was a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus and said, "Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
He said in reply, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”
He replied to him, "You have answered correctly; do this and you will live."
But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Jesus replied, "A man fell victim to robbers as he went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. They stripped and beat him and went off leaving him half-dead.
A priest happened to be going down that road, but when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. Likewise a Levite came to the place, and when he saw him, he passed by on the opposite side. But a Samaritan traveler who came upon him was moved with compassion at the sight. He approached the victim, poured oil and wine over his wounds and bandaged them. Then he lifted him up on his own animal, took him to an inn, and cared for him.
The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper with the instruction, 'Take care of him. If you spend more than what I have given you, I shall repay you on my way back.'
Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers' victim?"
He answered, "The one who treated him with mercy.” Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
The Gospel of the Lord
“The Seven Sins that Negate Love” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut
I presume that all of us are gathered here today with our faith in the crucified Christ and our faith in what the crucified Christ did and taught. In short, we're here because we believe in Jesus Christ. And with that belief, we continue to come together, we find energy and solace in our faith to give us direction, to live out that belief.
So then it would go without saying, I presume, that every one of us here today, if we were walking down the street and we saw somebody lying on the side of the road, and no one else helping them, that we would, because of our faith, respond to that person's needs in whatever way we could do at that moment, that we simply would not walk by. And presuming that none of us here today would do other than that, then I can conclude that today's homily is over. We have learned the lessons of our faith, and we can move on to other things, not. It's never that easy because love of neighbor is really far more than just kind acts, being compassionate, holding the door open for someone, and treating others with respect.
It has far deeper ramifications than that. Love of neighbor deals with love, and anyone who has ever loved knows that love is never easy. In fact, St. Theresa of Calcutta says, "for love to be real, it has to cost, it has to hurt, it has to empty us of self." So it has to cost. It has to hurt. It has to empty us of self.
Now, anyone who has truly loved understands that to be very true, especially if you've been a parent and have had to see one of your children take a course or a direction that was self-destructive; how it breaks your heart to see your child suffer. And so we know in our intimate relationships that love is in fact, difficult, that love does cost, it does hurt, and it does often cause us to empty ourself of self. But what St. Teresa says of love is applied across the board. And that's also true of our love for neighbor. Our love for a neighbor doesn't involve those things that just simply come easy for us, but involves those things that become more difficult for us.
And it all has to do with that emptying of self piece, and that's the part that we resist. And so it begs the question then, when we consider that emptying of self, what does that really mean? What does the gospel, what is Jesus really asking us to do when he's asking us to die to ourself or empty ourself of ourself?
Well it has to do, in this case, with those things that can negate love. Those things that can negate. Now I'm sure all of us, as we look in the mirror in our most honest moments can probably say that we do a pretty good job at loving. If you look at our lives and we say, "I don't go outwardly to try to hurt someone. I try not to be vindictive. I do try to be kind. I try to do as much as I can in charity. So I think I'm doing okay in the business of love." But with that perception, we often miss the greater powers that can negate love in us. And they're operative in each one of us today. And maybe our love isn't as perfect as we may think it is.
And what are some of those things? Well, there are seven, actually, that are present in each and every one of us at one point or another, and they all have the power to negate love. The first one is anger. Anger. When a person is bitterly angry, they cannot love, so anger negates love. The second one is apathy. Apathy, if it takes hold, and we become desensitized to the needs of others, we become less concerned about our relationships with God when we lose that sense of zeal in our life. Apathy negates love. We cannot love and be apathetic at the same time. The next thing that negates love is gluttony. Gluttony. When I find myself becoming overly self-indulgent in whatever way, shape, or form that may be, and not just with food. When I find myself hoarding the goods of life, afraid to let go of things, afraid to detach. Gluttony cannot exist with love. The next thing that negates love is greed. Greed. When I find myself wanting more than I am due, desiring more than I should have, trying to accumulate what you have for myself because I feel that I deserve it more than you. When greed takes hold of us, we become very self-focused, and it negates love. The next thing that negates love is jealousy or envy. When I find myself more preoccupied with what you have and what I don't have, and I find myself coveting what you have because I feel that I should have the same and I'm more absorbed in what is going on around me and what others are doing, such that I become envious of that, then it negates love. It negates love. The next thing that can negate love is lust. Lust. When I find myself pursuing my passions, of falling victim to pornography of falling victim, to my sensual desires, and seeking that self-pleasure and self-satisfaction, it negates love because those things turn us inward, and love requires that we look outward. And then the last thing that negates love is pride. Pride. When I think too highly of myself and my accomplishments and my worth over and against you. When I find myself with arrogance feeling better than others, more privileged than others, more deserving of others, more successful than others, then pride has a hold on me, and where pride lives, love cannot. And so those seven sins have the power to negate love. And I'm sure as I went through that list, one or more of them resonated with you as something with which you have struggled or currently are struggling or will struggle with in the future. Anger, apathy, gluttony, greed, envy, lust, pride.
And you know, what's interesting about this whole thing is we struggle with that personally if we look at the bigger context of our world. A lot of our world's problems are rooted in those very same things. If you look out at the conflicts that are being fought, if you look at the condition of human life, in many corners of the world, those who are without food, those who have to leave their homes, a lot of the perils of the world are all rooted in anger, apathy, gluttony, greed, envy, lust, and pride. It truly is the source of many of our human problems.
See, the challenge is when we start talking about the gospel, God really is asking us to create systems in our lives that serve as love. So that what does that mean? That means in our homes, the way we live and structure our lives in our homes have to service love. That the way we do our corporate business has to service love. That the way we structure our religious faiths have to service love. And that those systems and those structures have to allow for God to build his kingdom up in and through his people.
Yeah, often those things in our lives are built on those things that negate love, not the things that service love. Now, what's even more interesting about this is if you look at that good Samaritan story, the tendency is to look at that priest and Levite and see them as lacking in compassion. That somehow they were just simply blind to the eyes of the wombs that were in front of them, that they simply just overlooked it.
But in fact, they were just doing what the system in which they lived was telling them. If it was the Sabbath day, the priest and the Levite were doing exactly what the law promoted. You move to the other side of the street, and you walk by; it was only the Samaritan who didn't come from that who was freed of those structures that was able to immediately act with mercy, empty himself of self and do what needed to be done.
And we live with corporations, with ideologies, even our religious structures that often don't service love because here's the challenge and where it gets tricky and why loving our neighbor is not always an easy thing to do. If you look at that list and go through it in our minds again, the problem with it is that while all of us struggle with one or more of those things in our lives, we also have grown quite comfortable with them in our lives and we don't really want to let them go. So if I'm struggling, for example, with gluttony, as much as I look at myself and I don't like the fact that I'm falling victim to that negation of love, I'm very reluctant to put the changes in to get rid of it because I become comfortable with it. And so love when it challenges those things that negate it often finds itself in conflict.
It finds itself meeting resistance, and it finds itself even sometimes meeting violence. And when you look at many of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives for the cause of faith, all they were simply doing was trying to insert the virtue of love into a system or into a people who were resisting it, and they lost their lives.
And so, as we consider ourselves and our own love of neighbor, we have to realize that the darkness of sin and error has to want to give over to the power of love. It has to want that because love is calling us to look outward. Love is calling us to look at the other. Love is calling us to share, but the things that negate love are causing us to look inward, are causing us to preserve ourself, are causing us to be more self-focused and centered.
But we're gonna have to want to give up and empty ourself of all of those things, if we're going to truly love. And that's why the challenge of the gospel is precisely that: a challenge. And not something that comes easily. And certainly not something that's accomplished by just being kind or holding the door open for someone or being compassionate. Or even just being forgiving, it's accomplished when we begin to take this step to change and perfect our love to steer away from those things that negate it so that God can flourish with the power of his love within us. So as you have an opportunity this week, perhaps we can reflect again on those things that negate love to see in our lives just how much power we give them, how reluctant we are to let go of them, and how much they prevent us from truly loving and emptying ourselves so that we can be at service to God in the gospel. So you see at the end, being a Samaritan, especially a good Samaritan, is certainly not easy.
Father Mark Suslenko is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community at www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.