30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
October 26, 2014
As Christians we generally think in terms of ten commandments. God first offers these commandments in chapter 20 of the Book of Exodus. The reality is that God did not stop with ten. If we read beyond chapter 20 we can find what the Jews count as 613 commandments of which the ten we know are the most important.
Why so many commandments? Sometimes we might feel like our parents or our bosses have too many rules. Does God make too many rules?
If we look at the commandments, we should see that these commandments are good for us. God doesn’t give us commandments for his benefit. It’s for our own good.
For instance today we hear the instruction not to molest or oppress aliens. Why? God reminds they were once aliens in Egypt who resented the way they were treated so they should treat other aliens better.
God tells them not to wrong any widow or orphans. They are the poor and the vulnerable. They need help so hence the commandment to lead us to do good.
Hopefully we can see that the commandments lead us to do good.
Paul reminds the Thessalonians how they came to imitate him. Some say imitation is a form of flattery but here the point is not to imitate Paul to offer him praise.
The reason to imitate Paul is simple. Paul lives as Christ taught so by imitating Paul they are becoming more like Christ.
So the commandments help us to do what is good and become like Christ. Still, there are so many. Where to begin?
In Jesus’ time on Earth it was not an uncommon question to ask which commandment is the greatest. With 613 commandments, where is one to start?
So a scholar puts the question to Jesus. We would suppose the greatest would be from among the Ten Commandments but Jesus’ answer is not listed as such in the Ten. Neither is what Jesus says is the second greatest part of the Ten. Or are they?
First, they do come from scripture. The commandment to love God is found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and the commandment to love our neighbor is found in Leviticus 19:18.
Second, these two commandments really summarize the Ten Commandments. Ask yourself what it means to love God.
The first three of the Ten teach us about loving God; worship no other God, don’t take the Lord’s name in vain, keep the Sabbath. The other seven teach about loving our neighbor; don’t steal, don’t kill, don’t covet another’s property.
God gives us commandments to guide our actions but if we truly want to be Christian, it is not simply our actions that are important. Our actions are external and visible to the world but what do we act as we do? Is it to make others happy? Is it so we can get into Heaven? Both of these can be admirable goals but should not be the internal reason for our actions.
What should motivate us on the inside?
It’s simple – love!
Well, it sounds simple but is it really that simple to love? Honestly, people do things that hurt us. The hurt makes it difficult to love.
And how are we to love someone we have never met? How do we love everyone?
What first comes to mind when you hear the word “love”? I suspect for many the first thing that comes to mind is the love for our spouse. The rite of marriage speaks of the love of a couple for each other as a sign of God’s love for us. A man and woman express their love for each other in a very particular way.
Certainly we do not love a stranger like one would love a spouse.
What about family? We don’t get to pick our family but don’t we think about family differently than a stranger?
What about friends? What does it mean to call someone our “friend”? Here is a place we have really slipped. A friend is not defined by who likes you on Facebook. You can’t have several hundred friends. Friends are people we confide in because they care about us.
We care about people we love. God cares about us and we should care about God. It comes in different ways but we can care about everyone.
Jesus tells us the greatest commandment is love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. If we are to do this, it means making love part of everything we do. That means loving all we encounter.
Love comes in different forms but when we love we find what we are created for.