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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Exodus 22:20-26
Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
Matthew 22:34-40
October 29, 2017

Last week we heard how the Pharisees “plotted how they might entrap Jesus by asking him a question about paying the census tax.  If you look at the Gospel of Matthew, you will see next comes the story of the Sadducees questioning him about the resurrection, citing the example of a woman married sequentially to seven brothers.  They too want to test him but also were not successful in their goal to trap him.

Today, once again a Pharisee who was a scholar of the law sought to test him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?

The scripture is clear that the scholar did this to test him.  Thus, the scholar’s motives are not pure.  Nonetheless, he asked a question we might all like to know, which commandment is the greatest.  Why do we want to know the answer?  What is our motivation?

Our motivation in seeking the answer might be to take a minimalistic approach, which is the greatest so that we could follow just that one.

Or our motivations might be more pure.  We intend to follow God’s will, but it isn’t easy, so we look to grow in stages and desire to know which is most important to start there.

We think in terms of the Ten Commandments (as found in Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 6:6-21).  Ten might not seem too difficult but we might each find at least one or two particularly challenging for us.

Now, take the list of Ten Commandments and expand it to 613 for that is the number of commandments based on scripture listed in the Talmud (Jewish civil and ceremonial law).  Among these 613 are what we hear in today’s first reading that comes shortly after the giving of the Ten Commandments.  You shall not molest or oppress an alien,…You shall not wrong any widow or orphan,…you shall not act like an extortioner.

Now, knowing which is the greatest commandment becomes all the more important.  So, what does Jesus say the greatest commandment is?  “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

Hum…won’t you think the greatest commandment would be found in the Ten?  Jesus goes on to provide the second greatest commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Likewise, we don’t see this listed as one of the Ten Commandments.

While neither is listed in the Ten, both are found in the Bible.  The first, love God, is found in Deuteronomy 6:5 (not far after the listing of the Ten in the previous chapter).  The second, love your neighbor is found in Leviticus 19:18.

I want to note that I said neither of the two greatest commandments are listed in the Ten.  I said listed because these two really sum up the Ten.  Love your God encapsulates the first three commandments while love your neighbor gets to the heart of commandments four through ten.  If we want to follow God, we need to love God.  If we want to love God, we must love our neighbor (That’s why Jesus provided a second commandment even though he was only asked for one.  You can’t have one without the other.).

What does it mean to love?

We don’t see a lot of love between politicians.  We don’t see love from terrorists or violent offenders.  Where do we find love?

We love in different ways.  There is the love between family members.  There is the love that happens between a man and a woman coming together as husband and wife.  This is a different sort of love than between family members or close friends.  It’s not just that we love a spouse more.  It’s different.  It’s hard to understand.  Perhaps that is why we struggle in relationships like marriage or even general friendships.  We are even called to love strangers.  How can we love someone we don’t know?

If we love someone, then we should want them to be happy but it isn’t just about making them happy.  Even with strangers we should have high regard for them, treating them as God’s children.

At times, love can mean forgiving.  Forgiving isn’t always easy.  In the first reading we hear the Lord say, “I will kill you” if we break the commandments.  That certainly doesn’t sound loving or forgiving.

Does God really kill us for our sins?  First, we need to think about what sin is.  It is turning away from God to do what we want.  That means WE ARE separating ourselves from God.  Separation from God is death.

God does not want to kill us.  We do it to ourselves.  God wants to give us true life, not death.  That’s why God sent Jesus to die for us, to take away our sins so that we might live.

If we love God, we will not take his name in vain.  If we love our neighbor, we will not steal from them or covet their property.  We will not bear false witness against them.

Moving from a list of don’ts for those we love, let us turn to some positive do’s.  Do keep the sabbath holy.  Do show your love for God by coming to Mass and hearing his word.

Do show your love for the gift of faith by sharing that faith.  For parents and grandparents, it means sharing your faith with your children and grandchildren.  For others, we can share our faith by helping in our children’s and youth faith formation program.  Or you might help teach our RCIA to adults who wish to join our faith.

Maybe teaching is not your thing?  How about helping in our Martha Ministry that hosts our funeral luncheons to offer support to the families of the deceased.  You can help cook or serve.

How about contributing to our Poor Fund that we use to provide gift cards for food and gas to those in need?

How about beyond our parish?  I know we have several parishioners involved in Catholic Charities as well as Habitat for Humanity and Laurel House.  There’s CareNet.  Participating in any of these parish or community groups can help demonstrate your love for your neighbor.

Lastly, but always important, we need to pray for everyone to receive what they need.

Going back to the topic of motivation, don’t do any of these to get into Heaven.  Do them because your love God and your neighbor.

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