October 28, 2017 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Once again Jesus finds himself being confronted by the Pharisees.
- In today’s Gospel we find out that Jesus has outwitted a group called the Sadducees. They were the priestly group who had control over the temple.
- It appears, that the Pharisees are delighted so, they decide to take Jesus on.
- Not a very good strategy!
- The discussion then centers around the Commandments.
- Matthew tells us that they begin the discussion with the intention of trying to trap, test, or discredit Jesus.
Here we need a little background information.
- In the Torah, or law of Moses, there was the sum total of 633 commandments. Obviously, some were more important than others.
- Rabbis and scholars of the law, in Jesus ‘time, argued over which of the Commandments were the most important.
- The Pharisees are interested in entangling Jesus in this controversy.
The story unfolds
At this point, a scholar of the law representing their group approaches Jesus and sets the trap.
- He begins by asking, “Now, teacher, of all the commandments in the law which one, in your opinion, is the greatest one?”
- Now the question is “which of the 633 commitments is the one that is the most important and greatest one of all.”
- It could be a hard choice since there are so many of them to choose from.
Jesus does not hesitate at all. Immediately, he responds, “you shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” And, then to their surprise he continues, “the second is like it you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- With this, Jesus drives his point home when he says, “the law of Moses and all the words of the prophets are summed up in these two commandments”.
- Although the Gospel story ends there, you can imagine that the Pharisees stood there absolutely speechless.
- There was no further commentary needed or questions to be asked.
The Two Great Commandments
In answering their question, Jesus reaches back to the ancient profession of faith of the children of Israel. It is a prayer called the Shema.
- It can be found in the book of Deuteronomy and begins with these words, “Sh’ma O Israel, Adonai Elohim …Hear O Israel”
- This is the daily prayer to be recited by all The Jewish people because it reminds them that God, is God alone, and that to him belongs everything including existence itself.
- The only rightful response is to love him with all of one’s heart, mind, and soul.
The Second part of Jesus’ response to the question is an interesting one.
- It comes from the book of Leviticus where it says one should love one’s neighbor as one loves one self.
- What would have been amazing and new, is that Jesus chose to put the two of them together as the summary of the entire law of Moses and the Commandments.
- In responding to their question, Jesus infers that the love of God, which is right and primary, reveals itself in the love of neighbor.
The one word that stands out in the two great commandments, is the word “love.” Jesus said we must love God and we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
- It seems as though we throw the word “love” around so frequently that it really has lost its meaning and its impact.
- I can say that I love pizza.
- I can say that I love football.
- I can say that I love my dog.
Then I can turn around and use the same word in a different sense.
- I can say I love my family.
- I love my children.
- I love my spouse.
- Obviously, although it’s the same word the impact of what I intends is a lot different in each of these statements.
- Genuine human love can be defined as wishing the good for another person. Sometimes it is even so strong as to say that I put the welfare of another above my own welfare.
- I think that’s what we mean by loving another human being.
- It is this second use of the word “love” that Jesus intends when he speaks about the great commandments.
Love of Neighbor
The question remains, “who is my neighbor.?
The Pharisees and the scribes would argue that according to the law of Moses my neighbor is the Jewish person who lives next to me.
- If that person, is in need, then I should help them.
- However, for an answer to that question we really need to turn to the first reading for our mass today.
- Here in the Book of Exodus, is a list of those who are to be considered neighbor.
- They include the widow, the orphan, the stranger or alien, as well as the poor person in need.
- These are the who are to be considered neighbor as well as the person who lives next to me.
- The second part of the great commandment refers to them. We should love our neighbor as ourselves.
Here is the gospel challenge for this week.
- Last week we offered you the opportunity to join other parishioners in the box of joy challenge.
- If you recall, it is the opportunity to provide a Christmas gift for a poor child who lives in Haiti.
- Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.
The challenge for this week is to complete your box of joy and bring it either next weekend or the following weekend here to church so that we can send it off to Cross Catholic Outreach.
- They in turn will send it on to Haiti.
Here are some helpful suggestions.
- Decide if you will help a boy or a girl.
- Here is a sheet with some suggestions.
- Finally enclose a donation of nine dollars. Seven dollars will go for transportation while the remaining two will go to help a Catholic missionary.
At the heart of the Commandments is the challenge to love.
- Jesus sums it up by saying love of God, love of neighbor, and love of self.
- Love is the summary of the Commandments and the entire basis of the good news of the Gospel.
- We can make a difference in the lives of people.
- Our challenge for this week is to simply make a difference in the life of a small child another part of the world.