A HOMILY FOR THE THIRIETH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – CYCLE “A” – 10/29/17 – SMG
+ Pax et Bonum! Peace and goodness to you!
We live in a world today, where in every way we are trying to simplify our lives. We want things easier, and more convenient! We like to buy things on our phones. We want to change the oil in our cars, once a year or longer, and with the right oil today, they tell us that we can. We want to two Alieve instead of six or eight Tylenols for our aches and pains. Life just gets better and better all the time!
At first glance, it might seem like the Pharisees are trying to simplify the Jewish commandments. But there’s a little more going on here than just making life easier. You see, just like last week, with the Roman coin, and “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s”, the Pharisees are once again putting Jesus to the test. They want him to disavow even one of the Jewish laws, and get Himself into trouble. Now, remember, that by the time that this confrontation with Jesus is taking place, the Jewish Ten Commandments, that were given to them by Moses, on Mt. Sinai, have become an elaborate Jewish Code of thousands of laws and rules that the Jewish people were supposed to live by. They had so many rules and laws that it is said that no Rabbi knew all of them. They had to look them up in a book, when they came to a given situation. And to break even one of the Jewish laws, was to get yourself in trouble with the Jewish leadership. This is a test. And it’s a text that they are sure that Jesus is going to fail.
And Jesus doesn’t just give them one answer. He doesn’t just pick one commandment. He gives them two. For His first choice, He wisely chooses to quote the Book of Deuteronomy 6:5, which says “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” Jesus’ answer emphasizes the importance of love, in obeying the commandments, and in what God is asking of us. But the Pharisees don’t understand this. They are still playing games with religion.
Then, Jesus adds, without being asked, a second commandment. This time He quotes from Leviticus 19:18, a part two to His greatest commandment answer, which He says is equal to and inseparable from the first. And that is that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus says that everything hangs on these two interrelated commandments. You cannot say you love God and NOT love your neighbor. And really conversely, what is also true, you cannot really love your neighbor, and NOT love God.
So what does all of this mean for us today? How in 2017, do we love both God and neighbor? Well we start, by realizing that the two loves cannot be separated. Many times, it seems easy to love God. God is in Heaven. He is all-perfect. He died on that cross for us! What’s not to love? Loving our neighbor is a whole other challenge. Our neighbor might not have the same views and opinions as we do. He might vote for another political party. Our neighbor might not like our favorite sports team, maybe they might like that other college or NFL team. Our neighbor might not cut his grass, or trim his trees, or keep her house as clean as might like. We can find all kinds of reasons NOT to love our neighbors. Jesus says that we can’t.
In particular, when we hear these words today in light of the very practical words we read in our first reading from Exodus, we get a much clearer image of which of our neighbors, Jesus is challenging us to love. The passage from Exodus makes this loving our neighbors thing much more than a warm and fuzzy feeling! Exodus shows us the reality of a God who is compassionate and loving to the weak! God has a special place in His heart for the poor, the weak, the widow, and the orphan. Special care and compassion is demanded for those in these situations. These are our special neighbors. And we have a responsibility to them! What appropriate words for us today, in 2017!
St. Paul backs this teaching up in our second reading to the Thessalonians. He reminds the Thessalonians of their fidelity to Christ and to the Gospel. Faith, for them, has become more than a passing fad. Faith is a way of life! They have become steadfast and active in their Faith. Would St. Paul say the same thing about us today? We hope so. We hope so. The Thessalonians have achieved what St. Paul had most hoped for: namely, they have integrated the love of God and the love of their neighbor, into their lives. And in doing so, they have become an example of hope, bringing the good news of the Gospel, to all of those around them.
We can do the same. All of us! We can love God and our neighbor, and change the world! Are two great commandments really easier? Not really. Loving God and loving our neighbor is a real challenge! They are, however, the perfect summary to everything else that our God asks of us today, or ever.
+ May God bless us and help us to live out these commandments, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!