Love and Entanglement

Homily, “Love and Entanglement”
Ordinary Time, Proper 25, 2020
Online with Santa Fe Episcopal Church
San Antonio, TX

Derek M Larson, TSSF

Today’s Lectionary Readings:

Deuteronomy 34:1-12
Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17
1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
Matthew 22:34-46

“On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” 

In the name of holy Community of love, the holy image of love by which we are made, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

I. The Quantum Riddle

This week I watched a documentary called “Einstein’s Quantum Riddle” which was all about a scientific idea called “quantum entanglement.” The idea of quantum entanglement is something Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” To a certain extent, you don’t have to be a physicist to understand how the world works. For example, if I knock over this domino and it hits the other one, we know the second will fall over too. Classic physics explains this. Quantum physics, however, makes the claim that at a microlevel, the level of photons and electrons, the world doesn’t work like this. At the microlevel, sometimes particles can be paired so that one particle can be here and another particle can be in another galaxy but they will still effect one another. It’s almost like if I kept one of these dominos and sent another one to my brother in Florida, I could knock mine down and the one in Florida would still fall too. “Spooky action at a distance.” Even though the math showed that would be possible Einstein couldn’t believe it and all throughout the 20th century scientists debated how quantum entanglement could be possible or impossible. While scientists don’t understand how it works, today quantum entanglement has been scientifically proven and scientists are trying to figure out why things act different in the macro-world (the world of things we can see) and the micro-world (the world of photons and electrons). They are trying to figure out a single unifying theory of the universe which summarizes and explains all the the scientific laws proven, and entanglement could be central to that mission. The documentary ended with a hypothesis: “Entanglement could be the true fabric that forms the universe.”

II. The Commandment Riddle

Today in our gospel we see a similar debate taking place. Like Einstein and other scientists going back and forth about quantum entanglement, in today’s gospel we see the religious leaders of Jesus’ day—the Pharisees, Saducees, and teachers of the law—going back and forth with Jesus about various aspects of Scripture. Last Sunday we heard the first debate where the Pharisees tried to trip up Jesus about who should pay taxes, then later in the chapter the Sadducees take a turn and try to trip up Jesus with a question about the resurrection, and now finally the Pharisees take one more turn and try to trip up Jesus with a huge question, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Now, this is a huge question because there are quite a few commandments in Scripture! We all probably know the ten famous commandments, but the early Jewish rabbis identified 613 commandments in all (248 “you shalls” and 365 “you shall nots”). The religious scholars of Jesus’ day would often debate about how to prioritize and put all these laws together, sometimes seeking a single unifying theory which summarized them all. So the question, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” fits right into that wider conversation. Jesus replied, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

I wonder how different these two debates—one about physics, one about religious law—really are. Both are looking for a single unifying theory which flows through everything, and both give an answer that does just that. Love. Entanglement. Both love and entanglement point to the deep truth that we are all connected. Both love and entanglement point to the great power of relationships. Both love and entanglement say that we don’t exist as isolated individuals, but we always live in community. 

III. Sin and Isolation

A couple weeks ago Pope Francis came out with a new encyclical, a letter to the Church, called Fratelli Tutti. In the letter he describes the great sin of our world: rugged individualism which sees others only as a means to an end rather than fellow members of the family of God. He describes how all the major problems of our day, racism, sexism, poverty, climate change, vicious and polarizing partisanship—even the pandemic—come from thinking that we are somehow separate from one another, isolated in our own needs and desires—that we have to compete against one another for our own survival and wellbeing instead of working together as community. 

Our current pandemic surely shows how foolish that thinking is. Now more than ever we are keenly aware of just how connected we really are. Now more than ever we are aware that the space between us is not empty—that we breathe the same air. It’s why we wear our masks, its why we stand six feet apart. It’s funny how a practice of social distancing can actually show us our inherent nearness. 

IV. Love and Entanglement

Jesus’ answer to love—to love God and to love neighbor—counters the assumption our world  makes of isolation and invites us to open ourselves to others in a humble mutuality. Jesus knows that love is the answer because to love God and others in relationship is the very center of what it means to be human. As Christians we believe in a Trinitarian God, a God who is a community of three persons, and it is this God, who in Genesis chapter 1 spoke, “Let us make humanity in our own image.” In his encyclical Pope Francis writes, “the existence of each and every individual is deeply tied to that of others: life is not simply time that passes; life is a time for interactions.” Our deepest identity is who we are in relation to others. Our deepest identity is community. Our deepest identity is entanglement. 

The two greatest commandments, then, are all about remembering who we are.

V. Remembering

How many of you have seen the movie the Lion King? Do you remember that scene where Rafiki brings Simba to the pond to see the image of his dad in the water and then the wind picks up and Simba sees and hears the voice of his dad Mufasa in the clouds and in the big booming voice of James Earl Jones we hear, “Simba, Remember who you are! Remember!”

The commandment to love is like that! The commandment to love God and neighbor is to remember that you do not exist on your own but that your deepest and truest self is relationship, connection, entanglement. The commandment to love God and neighbor is to remember to see the people around you as brothers, sisters, siblings, parents, children in the single unifying family of God. It is to remember to care for them and to allow them to care for you. It is to remember that your actions effect the people around you. The commandment to love God and neighbor is to remember that you are not alone.

VI. Love and Entanglement in
south San Antonio

So what does it mean to remember here in our own context? What does it mean to love God and love neighbor in south San Antonio at Santa Fe Episcopal Church?

A Moment of Reflection

Examples for reflection:

-It means to wear a mask.
-It means to check up on your neighbors to see how they are and if they need anything.
-It means to pray for the people around you—even the people you might not like!
-It means to participate in community organizing efforts that seek to bring justice to our streets.
-It means to vote!
-It means to smile at the people around you.
-It means to listen to another’s pain and struggle.
-It means to work towards ending racism and white supremacy in society and in our hearts.
-It means to teach and care for our children.
-It means to affirm and encourage one another.

To do these things is to remember. To do these things means to take up the greatest commandments of all, to love God and neighbor. To do these things is to participate in a single unifying force which binds us all in an entanglement of love. Amen.