30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51 (2)
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
October 25, 2020
Last week we heard how the Pharisees were trying to “entrap Jesus in speech.” As they did this, Jesus responded “knowing their malice.”
Today, the Pharisees continue their efforts against Jesus. “One of them, a scholar of law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”’
Even though the motive in asking the question is bad, the question is a fair question. Sometimes following all the commandments seems impossible. Where do we begin? Our desire should be to keep all God’s commandments but where do we start?
When we hear the word “commandments,” we might immediately think of the Ten Commandments given to Moses. Which one of them is the greatest?
However, Jesus does not respond with one of the Ten Commandments. His response is found in the Old Testament, specifically Deuteronomy 6:5. Jesus says the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all you heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
On his own initiative, Jesus tells us the second greatest commandment is like the first, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This too is not one of the Ten Commandments but it is found in the Old Testament in Leviticus 19:18.
While neither of the two greatest commandments given by Jesus are explicitly found in the Ten Commandments, they are what the Ten Commandments call us to do, love. They sum up the Ten.
The first three of the Ten Commandments are about loving God. Commandments three through ten are about how we love our neighbor.
How much are we to love? With all our heart, soul, and mind. Do we? Is there something we are holding back on?
It can be hard to love. Some people make it especially hard to love them but at times it can even be hard to love God. Sometimes we just want to do our own thing.
Yes, it can be hard to love. In our opening prayer, we prayed that God “increase our faith, hope and charity” (charity meaning love).
God loves us. As Paul says we need to become imitators of the Lord, meaning we need to follow his example of love. Jesus shows us what it means to love with all our heart, soul, and mind when He freely gives his life for us on the Cross.
What about loving our neighbor?
Our first reading provides application of the Ten Commandments to love. Regarding lending money, we hear, “you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him.” To do so is to steal.
What does this say about banks charging interest on loans? Today is a different world. Charging interest is how banks make money to stay in business. They rightly charge interest but it must be at a fair rate.
What the first reading is speaking against is taken advantage of a person’s misfortune. It speaks of neighbors helping each other not as a business but as love. We should not advantage of our neighbor’s plight to make money for ourselves. It only makes their situation worse.
The first reading also tells us, “You shall not molest or oppress alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” To be an alien to is to be a foreigner, meaning one is not in one’s homeland. That can make life all the harder. They might feel all alone. We are not to take advantage of their misfortune. We should think about how we treat immigrant and migrant workers today. Do we pay and treat them fairly or do we take advantage of their situation?
The Lord reminds the Israelites how badly they were treated in Egypt. They are not to treat others similarly. What’s the Golden Rule? “Do onto others as you would have them do onto you” (see Matthew 7:12, Luke 6:31).
The Israelites were oppressed as slaves in Egypt. They cried out to God who heard their cry and rescued them, destroying their enemies.
We are loved by God. We are called to respond by loving God and our neighbor. It is not easy to love. When we do, we become “a model for all.” When we love, people will see us as people who love and, we pray love others in kind.
It is not easy to love. We do so only with our Lord as our strength, our rock, our deliver, refuge, and shield.
Lord, help us to love.