Exodus 22: 20-26; Psalm 18: 2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thessalonians 1: 5c-10; Matthew 22: 34-40
First Reading: This reading has special relevance for people who live in relative affluence, who may have forgotten their immigrant roots. We are reminded again and again of our responsibility to show our love for God by caring for the most vulnerable among us.
Psalm 18: Psalm 18 is classified as a royal psalm of thanksgiving and is a beautiful prayer of thanksgiving from one who has known the Lord’s saving power and deliverance.
Second Reading: This reading follows directly on the opening address we heard last week. They have been “imitators” of Paul, who strove to imitate the Lord, living according to the model and the teaching he set forth.
Gospel: Although the opening line of today’s Gospel points to a situation of conflict and challenge, the wisdom of Jesus’s answer quickly silences his opponents. It can be summed up in two ideas: love God with one’s whole being, and also, to love one’s neighbor as oneself. The second commandment is equal to the first!
Reflection: In today’s gospel, a Pharisee comes to Jesus to test him by asking him which commandment is the greatest. It is a question that is clearly intended to entrap him. But Jesus responds without hesitation, directing the scholar to two Old Testament passages: the first to the Shema, the great prayer which pious Jews repeated every morning and evening, found in Deuteronomy (6: 5), and Leviticus (19: 18), the command to love thy neighbor.
Jesus’ combination of these two commandments makes them the core of Christian worship and practice. Love of God and love of neighbor cannot really be separated; in loving our neighbor we love God! We cannot separate love of God and love of neighbor because our neighbor was created in God’s image and bears within him or her the presence of God.
The combined command to love God and neighbor teaches us to strive for humility before our gracious God and obedient service to others, especially the poor. The more we strive for that combination of virtues, the more we will be imitators of the Lord and models for other believers.
The gospel sets a clear priority for how we are to act: love above all else. Jesus showed us by the way he lived what it means to love God with all one’s being and love others as self. Jesus loved by his teaching, preaching, forgiving, and healing. Jesus loved by his open and welcoming encounters with all who came to him. Jesus loved by his suffering and death. Yes, Jesus loved above all else. Do you?
Question for Reflection: Have I grown in being able to love God with my whole being?
Copyright © 2017, Scott W. Eakins. All Rights Reserved.