The map for a good and happy life
A reflection for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
by Carlos Ferreira
This week we are asked to reflect on which are the most important of all commandments. In the first reading from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses tells us we should love God above all things and that we should put God ahead of anything else in our lives.
That is a very hard proposition if we think that implies that we need to put aside our own wishes and desires to follow what God wants of us. But then St. Paul tells us that Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice for us and God went so far as to give His own son to save us all, and then we ask, “How can I not put God above all things if he gave His own son to save me?”
Finally, Jesus sums it all up by saying that the most important of all commandments is “Love your God above all things and love your neighbour as you love yourself.”
From my point of view, Jesus simplified this mission of putting God above all things in our life by saying that anything we do to help others is a way to follow God in our lives.
Like He said, “anything you do to one of these small ones, you do to me”, so that tells us that our caring for each other is what makes us closer to God.
One of the things that I always experience in my life is that following God's will will never bring you pain. God wants above all things that we live happy lives.
I left Portugal for Spain in 2011, and I knew that leap in the dark was God’s will. At the time, I was going to be part of the communications team of World Youth Day in Madrid. I had never lived away from my family for more than a couple of weeks, but I was sure God was telling me that he would be my strength. I would not be what I am today without that trust, and that made me happy. The initial discomfort of separation turned into the happiness of a life built hand in hand with God.
In the years after WYD 2011 I met people who told me that my work made them feel closer to what World Youth Day actually is, and that made me feel happy in a way I never felt before.
God wants us to be happy, and when we read these words, we should not think how hard it is to follow them, but like the psalmist, we should think the “Lord is our strength” and that anything he puts on our way is to ultimately bring us closer to Him and help us live happy lives.
Seeing God in each person that crosses your path is the ultimate way of following Him, knowing that anything you do to the one who crosses your path you are doing to God Himself. It will not only put you on God's path but also make you feel happier with yourself. The smile that you see on that person's face is indeed the smile of God.
The commandment “love God above all things and love your neighbour like yourself” seems like a very difficult task, but like someone told me once, “Jesus’ door is narrow, but the happiness on the other side has no measure.” So God might ask us for some sacrifices – some bigger than others – but His love for us is so big that He will repay us in a big way the same way we make others happy when we help them.
Ultimately, we realize that God is giving us not just a rule to follow, but in reality He is giving us the map for a good and happy life.
The readings for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, are
Carlos Ferreira is a Catholic globetrotter who went from a small town in Portugal to Madrid, worked at Salt + Light Media from 2011 to 2016 and now lives in Vancouver. He is the host of the newly launched podcast Things Jesus Never Said.