It happened 20 or 30 years ago but it is an echo of what a saint who lived 15 hundreds years ago and whose name was Augustine said: “You cannot love what you don’t know.” This Sunday as we listen to the words of our Blessed Lord: “You must love the Lord your God. You must love your neighbor.” I would like to preach on this very basic and fundamental truth: “You cannot love what you don’t know.”
My Sisters and Brothers! A few times, or maybe more than a few times, I have been challenged by some people saying that celibacy is not what God wants for me. I realize that I am an insignificant person, so there is no need for those people to know me, to know that I am happy as a celibate priest, as an Oblate. It is not easy, but I hope you agree with me that what is difficult doesn’t need to be wrong or bad. However I always ask those who seem to know God’s mind so well: “How many hours do you pray every day? How many times have you read and contemplated the whole Bible? How many times do you attend Mass every week? How much time do you spend with those in need every week?” I guess that something wrong must be with the questions because usually the conversation stops with the last question.
That young fella who joined the monastery first thought that he knew the monks well. Probably coming to their church for some services or maybe even joining them for the meals, they were consuming most likely in silence, he developed the image how perfect the place was. Was it the reality? I believe it was even if the monk weren’t faultless but they were supporting each other, they were committed to each other and they must have forgiven each other if they were still living in that limited space. The reality the young man faced was that he had created in his head a different image of the place.
Our God is faultless so he can’t disappoint us on that but what can present a challenge to us is that he always wants good for us and unfortunately it is not always what we want.
So, can we come to know God? God never expects us to do what is impossible for us. That’s why what we have heard today from Jesus: “You must love the Lord your God” it implies that we can come to know our God. If we it were impossible for us to know God it would be impossible love him. But let’s be humble in our quest to come to know God in order we could love him. What does it mean? You and I are not the first people desiring to know God. There have been lots of people who did that before us: the patriarch and prophets from the Old Testament, the apostles and saints over centuries of the Church mission, and the best source of knowledge of God: his only begotten Son Jesus Christ. It would be arrogant to ignore that rich experience of who God is. Those people I have just mentioned that can give us deep knowledge but they all, no matter how different they were have one thing in common: THEY LIVED EVERY DAY LOVING GOD AND NEIGHBOUR. They didn’t only write inspiring books on God but they lived every day in his presence.
To finish let me touch very briefly the second commandment Jesus spoke of in the Gospel: “You must love your neighbor.” St Augustine’s saying aply to that as well: “You cannot love what you don’t know.” Some years ago when I was working in a parish, we had a group of altar servers there. Great kids! One Christmas the mother of an altar server asked her son what she should get me as a gift. Do you know what he said? “Get him a box of tomatoes.” You know what? He was right. I was surprised how well he knew me.