30th Sunday O T, Year A – 17

30th Sunday O T, Year A – 17

Exo.22:20-26 / 1Thess.1:5-10 / Matt.22:34-40

The central theme of today’s readings is the greatest Commandment in the Bible, namely to love God and express it in action by loving Him in our neighbor. The first reading, taken from Exodus, explains the different expressions of the love of one’s neighbor, especially of the underprivileged.

In the second reading, St. Paul praises the Thessalonian Christians for the heroic witness they bear to Christ by practicing mutual love.

In the Gospel today, Jesus combines the commandment to love God with the commandment to love one’s neighbor and gives the result as one Commandment of supreme importance in Christian life.

A Sunday school teacher was teaching her class about the 10 Commandments in preparation for their First Confession (8-year-olds)

After explaining the Commandment to “honor thy father and mother” she asked the class, ” Is there a commandment that teaches us how to treat our brothers and sisters?”

Immediately one boy puts up his hand and answered, “Thou shall not kill.” If we had grown up with siblings, we probably would have agreed with that boy.

And we may have to admit that some people are such a pain for us that we would have done something drastic if not for that commandment.

There is another joke. A pastor was speaking to a Sunday school class about the things money can’t buy.  “It can’t buy laughter and it can’t buy love” he told them.

Driving his point home, he said, “What would you do if I offered you $1000 not to love your mother and father?” Stunned silence ensued.

Finally, a small voice queried, “How much would you give me not to love my big sister?”

In the gospel, we heard that the Pharisees asked Jesus about which is the greatest commandment of the Law.

The Pharisees were such a pain for Jesus. As if they don’t know what is the greatest commandment of the Law. But they asked that question not so much for discussion but rather to disconcert Jesus.

To disconcert is to upset or to frustrate or to ruffle or irritate someone. It’s certainly not a nice thing to do to someone.

And Jesus could have given those Pharisees a piece of His mind just to shut them up, just as He had silenced the Sadducees earlier.

But being a good teacher, Jesus showed them where to look, and He left it to them to see whatever they want to see or whatever they have to see.

The first and greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And then it is followed by this: You must love your neighbor as yourself.

So, to love God is to see God in your neighbor and that would also mean to see yourself in your neighbor. Jesus told the Pharisees where to look, but what they want to see is for them to choose and decide.

So, we are also told where to look. And what do we see? As for Jesus, He saw that it would be more loving to give those Pharisees a bit of His heart than to give them a piece of His mind.

We too would be happier when we give people a bit of our heart rather than a piece of our mind.

But when we look at the people around us, those at home, those at work, those in Church, it would be easier to give them a piece of our mind than a bit of our heart.

And here lies the lesson of life – Nothing and no one ever goes away until they teach us what we need to know.

God doesn’t give us the people we want. He gives us the people we need – people who will hurt us, people who will leave us, but also people who will help us and people who will love us, so as to make us into the persons we were meant to be.

When we can see that, then we would have understood the lesson of life. And with that, we will be able to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves.

A fundamental theme that runs throughout the entire Bible is this: “God offers, we respond.” God’s offer of love for us is a given; His unconditional love is always offered to us no matter what. The result, however, is conditional. The result depends upon our response to His offer.

How, then, do we respond to Christ’s mandate that we love everyone as we love ourselves? First of all, we should take it for what it is – a mandate, a command. It is something we must choose to do with little regard for our feelings.

Feelings are important but feelings are not decisive. Convictions, things we are convinced of, are decisive. Feelings are not. More often than not, acting on our feelings leads us down wrong paths and into trouble.

Christ’s mandate was an utterly simple one, one with no complexities whatsoever. I don’t care how you feel, Jesus says to us, simply love your neighbors. Love them as your heavenly Father loves them.

Love them, the good and the bad alike, with the unconditional love with which your Father in heaven loves them. Love all of your neighbors in what you do to them, in what you do for them, and in how you act toward them.

All of those complicated and complex feelings of yours will eventually follow along. My religion, says Jesus, is a matter of what we do; it’s not a religion simply of nice feelings.

Be Blessed and be a blessing. Amen.