When I was in the seminary, I made a wonderful eight-day retreat with Fr. Bob Welsh. He is a Jesuit priest who just died this past year. He said a lot to me that changed my life forever.
As I was coming to the end of my retreat, he said to me, “Michael, the most important thing that you can do in your life is fall in love with God because if you do not fall in love with God, you are going to fall in love with someone else or something else.”
If we do not fall in love with God, we are going to fall in love with someone else or something else. I love asking the grade school kids questions, so I often say to them (when this Gospel comes up), “Alright, boys and girls, we just heard the Gospel. What is the greatest commandment? What is the greatest commandment ever said?”
Sure enough, they would raise their hand, and the first thing they would always say is, “Treat others as you want to be treated.” I would say, “No, did you not just hear the Gospel? The greatest commandment is love God with all your heart, your mind, your strength, and your soul. The second is love your neighbor as yourself.”
We have kind of twisted the two – especially in the society we live in. We really have put service ahead of even loving God. The new generation (probably a lot of you are millennials) is being called Generation Z because they have been tethered from the time they were born. They are known for their love of service.
If you do a service project in the parish, you will get hundreds and hundreds of people signing up, but if you do a special holy night or an adoration, the kids just do not come. They have learned that service is the ultimate act, and yet Jesus said the first and greatest commandment is “love God with all your heart, with all your mind, all your soul and all your strength.”
I just want you to think about that for a second. Are you in love with God? If you have ever had a first kiss or been in love before, you know that when you are in love you think about that person non-stop. From the time you wake up to the time you go to bed, you are constantly thinking about that person. That is how we are called to be with God. Constantly thinking about him. Constantly inviting him into our situations.
So, over the years of my priesthood, it has become important for me to not only fall deeper and deeper in love with God but to help other people to really see and understand what that means. My spiritual director gave me this quote that I want to read to you.
Pedro Arrupe who was the head of Jesuits wrote it. He said, “Nothing is more practical than finding God that is than falling in love. Listen, in a quite absolute and final way, what you are in love with, what seizes your imagination will affect everything.
It will decide what would get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you will spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love and it will decide everything.”
It is important that everyone realize that the first and greatest commandment for us is falling in love with God. Love him with all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our soul and all of our strength. What that means is that we really want to give our whole lives to him.
I know we are all here at mass right now, and we are celebrating this coming together as the Body of Christ -but I want you to think of the rest of your week. How much time is actually spent dedicated to God?
How much is God on your mind and in your heart with everything you do throughout the week? Saint Charles Boromeo, whose feast day is today, says that we should meditate before, during and after everything that we do – and then everything becomes a prayer. If we are in love with God, he is a part of everything.
So, no matter what we do – our love for God will decide what we do on the weekend, how we are going to spend our day, who we are going to be friends with. It decides everything. Then our life becomes this amazing experience of being in love with God. It will change everything. There is no more drudgery in life.
There is no more just doing things just because you have to do them. You are doing them because you are with God and you are in love with God. Remember to keep the two commandments straight. Service is a wonderful thing.
Love each other as we are called to love ourselves, but above all is to fall in love with God. The best way to do that is right here at the Eucharist. So, I invite you as you come up to communion to tell him (if you are not in love with him already), “Lord, help me to fall in love with you” because there is nothing more practical than falling in love with God.