Many of us are probably familiar with the iconic Marilyn Monroe. Marilyn Monroe was this iconic figure of what the world saw as beauty. We also know that Marilyn Monroe died tragically. She died on her bed alone with a phone in her hand, naked, and a bunch of drugs all around her. She died broken, sad, empty and alone. If you know anything about her life, you know from the time that she was young, she was used by people. She was used by Hollywood. She was used by men. She was used by the industry. She was doing an interview once and they asked her the question, “Are you good?” She responded, “I am good, but not an angel. I do sin, but I am not the devil. I am just a small girl in a big world trying to find someone to love.” She tried her whole life to find someone to love and, in the end, it seemed like she never found it. God would have been able to fulfill her deepest desires, but she never knew that. She was never told that. She was never helped to see this wonderful God that you and I love so much.
St. Augustine, before his conversion, had a phrase that many people are familiar with. He would often say, “Love, and do what you will. Give me chastity and continence — but not yet.” That was his prayer when he was still wrestling away from God and trying to find love in all the wrong places. We know his beautiful poem “Too late have I loved You.”
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness, I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. Created things kept me from you; yet if they had not been in you they would have not been at all.” Then he talks about his conversion as he continues on, “You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me, and I burned for your peace.”
St. Augustine discovered the first commandment “to love God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul.” I want to stop with the first commandment because I think so often we jump to the second commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” The second commandment is important but not as important as the first commandment. It is funny because often when I go to the grade school I will ask the children, “What is the first commandment?” Do you know what they always say? “Love your neighbor as yourself.” They get it wrong. I think getting it wrong has devastating consequences on us. If we turn to other people for our love, then we are not totally in love with God the Father. That can destroy us.
My first year in the seminary was in 2002. I went to Toronto to see Pope John Paul II for World Youth Day. He was speaking to teens. I want you to think of John Paul II speaking to these teens who are trying to figure out who they are, who their friends are, what they are trying to do with their sexuality, and where God is calling them to in life. He says to them, “We are not the sum of our weaknesses and failures; we are the sum of the Father’s love for us and our real capacity to become the image of his Son.” So, it is the Father’s love for us that makes us who we are. I think something really terrible happens if we forget about the first commandment, and we move quickly on to the second.
I’ve never seen something explode quite so quickly on social media as the words from the Holy Father did the other day. Did you guys hear about that on the news? The Holy Father was talking about endorsing civil unions. It exploded on social media and caused a lot of confusion. Is he changing the church teachings? Is he not? What is causing this confusion? What is causing this confusion in our society is that our society equates same sex union with marriage. We all know that marriage is the sacrament. That is the ideal of God’s love for us. What causes all the hurt, the brokenness, disillusionment and misunderstanding of what God needs for love? It is ultimately that we put loving others or being in love with others ahead of loving God. When we are in love with God, we are able to truly live the lives that God calls us to.
I think it is important that we all know that from the moment of our conception we were loved into this world by God. St. Catherine of Siena said, “I have loved you without being Myself loved, and without any consideration of Myself whatsoever, for I loved you without being loved by you — before you existed; it was, indeed, love that moved Me to create you to My own image and similitude.” (St. Catherine of Siena, The Dialogue, “A Treatise of Prayer”).
Thomas à Kempis once said “Of all those who are dear to you, let Him be your special love. Let all things be loved for the sake of Jesus, but Jesus for His own sake. Jesus Christ must be loved alone with a special love for He alone, of all friends, is good and faithful.” (Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ, Bk. II, ch. 7-8).
I think that it is important to ask ourselves, “Is the first commandment first for us?” Do we love God with all of our heart, all of our soul, all of our mind, all of our being, all of our strength?
St. John Vianney once said, “I love you, O my God, and my only desire is to love you until the last breath of my life. I love you, O my infinitely lovable God, and I would rather die loving you, than live without loving you. I love you, Lord, and the only grace I ask is to love you eternally . . . My God, if my tongue cannot say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat it to you as often as I draw breath.” St. Clare of Assisi said, “We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God´s compassionate love for others.”
So, I go back to the question of what the Holy Father said. I go back to the question about what the church says about all love and what the church calls each and every one of us to from our Baptism. The primary call for us is to love God with all of our hearts, all of our minds, all of our soul. What happens when we do not? What happens if God is not first in our life? I think we, like Marilyn Monroe, would be drawn to people and things that would never bring us to where God wants to bring us to.
The church places great expectations on us. Sometimes expectations that seem absurd, right? Today we celebrate priesthood Sunday. I like being a priest, and I know my brother priests love being priests. One thing that is always perplexing for people is the idea of celibacy. They say, “Why can’t priests get married?” The reality is that we are supposed to be so in love with God that He is our primary form of loving. Some people may say, “How can a teenager go their whole teenage years and be a virgin. How is that possible?” It is only possible if God is loved with their whole heart, mind and soul. How does a widow survive when their spouse dies? When their husband or wife dies. How do they survive? It is only by loving God with their whole heart, mind and soul. If we do not have this love for God, love for others simply does not make sense.
Finally, I just want to read a poem by Charles de Foucauld. The poem is about us abandoning ourselves into God’s love. As I read this, I want it to be a prayer for me and a prayer for you.
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures –
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
I would like to end this homily by just asking you the question, “Do you live the first commandment? Do you love God with all of your heart, with all of your mind, and all of your soul?” If you have never told it to God before, I invite you to tell Him . . . “I love you.” Look to God the Father and say, “I love you with all my heart, mind and soul. I am in love with you.” Say it to Jesus and then say it to the Holy Spirit so that we can truly live out this first commandment. When we do, life becomes a wonderful adventure. When we are in love with God, these other loves do not seem to be so important. They do not seem to matter as much. We can sacrifice them and let them go for the love of God.