THIRTIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
The first and third readings speak about love of God and love of neighbor. In the second reading, Paul offers words of encouragement to his readers.
FIRST READING: Exodus 22:20-26
Commenting on this reading, Patricia Sanchez writes: In this reading the author reminds us that by virtue of our shared covenantal relationship with God, each one of us is responsible for one another. Moreover, because of the special divine concern for the poor, those who are bound by covenant to God and to one another must necessarily share those same concerns.
At issue were three perennial concerns of the ancient world: the treatment of aliens and strangers, the welfare of widows and orphans and the lending of money and exacting of interest. Because they did not have the protection of their tribe or clan or the same rights as the local citizenry, strangers, aliens and other people, displaced by war, famine and /or disease were susceptible to maltreatment. Therefore, Israel’s covenantal legislation provided for their welfare. To motivate them in their concern for and treatment of aliens, the Israelites were to remember their years as displaced foreigners in Egypt and to exercise toward others the same compassion with which their cries had been heard and their needs had been met by God.
SECOND READING: Thessalonians 1:5-10
Thessalonica was a thriving crossroad city in the Roman Empire. As a result of Paul’s anointed preaching a dynamic Christian communitywas founded and nurtured. In fact, this small Christian community became a wonderful example for many others, “a model for all believers in Macedonia and Achaia. Their “lived faith” sounded forth to all around them. People everywhere could see by their lifestyle how they had embraced Jesus and his teachings.
GOSPEL: Matthew 22:34-40
This week, the Pharisees are trying to entrap Jesus once again by having an expert in the law ask him a question about which law was the most important. This was a question often discussed amongst the leaders and an issue on which there were lots of disagreement. So no matter what answer Jesus gave, the Pharisees thought that he would lose some credibility as a teacher with some of the people.
In Jesus’ time some of the 613 laws were considered ‘heavy’ (such as love of God) and some considered “light” (love of neighbor). When Jesus responds by saying that the whole law could be summarized in the love of God and neighbor, he wasn’t saying anything new (see Deuteronomy 6:4-5). What is new about Jesus’ response is that he made the love of God and neighbor of equal importance. He made no distinction between the “heavy” precept (love of God) and the “lighter” precept (love of neighbor). He placed both together and also said both were equally important.
Later St. John in his first epistle would stress the equal importance of both commandments by asking: “How can you say that you love God whom you do not see if you do not love your neighbor whom you can see?” Loving with all our strength precludes part-time love and half-hearted service. With all our strength demands the same full-time effort that Jesus modeled for us during his ministry with us. If all this seems a bit daunting we must remember that all our strength for loving serving comes from God.
What does it mean to you to love your neighbor or the stranger as yourself?