Which is the greatest commandment? How do we answer?
Reflections on the readings for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (October 25, 2020): EX 22:20-26; PS 18:2-3,4,47,51; 1 THES 1:5-10; MT 22:34-40
MISSIO offers “Preaching Mission,” as a homily help, providing connections to mission from the readings of Sundays, Feast Days and Holy Days.
Jesus wants all His listeners, both friends and enemies, to know that God wants us to do more than comply with a set of rules. We must act out of love for God who calls us to love our neighbor. And He does not mean this in a vague, superficial way.
In the Gospel passage for today, Jesus’ enemies again try to undermine Him. One of the Pharisees asks Him to name the greatest commandment. Our Lord responds, but not with a simple answer. Instead, He says, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). The phrases our Lord speaks are not new. The first commandment about loving God comes from Deuteronomy; the second about loving your neighbor as yourself comes from Leviticus. But the way Jesus joins them together is something unusual and noteworthy, especially when He states that not only God’s law but also the guidance He offers through His prophets rests on both of them.
Jesus wants all His listeners, both friends and enemies, to know that God wants us to do more than comply with a set of rules. We must act out of love for God who calls us to love our neighbor. And He does not mean this in a vague, superficial way. Christ tells us that God expects us to love others the way we love ourselves – with as much concern for the physical and spiritual welfare of others as we have for ourselves. We must treat people close to us and every single person we meet, every person who touches our lives, with the same care, respect and loving-kindness that we want for ourselves. Agreeing that we should we love God with our whole being, while holding back on our love of neighbor shows that we do not really understand what He asks of us. Loving each of us profoundly, He yearns for us to reciprocate. More than that, God wants us to love ourselves. But our self-love must not be arrogantly selfish, but part of a personal relationship with God meant to begin now and last for all eternity. To do that, we need to love one another with generosity. God, neighbor, self – we are all bound through divine love. And this love is not primarily feeling: it is action. When God made us, when His Son died for us, when we reach out to help someone in need, this is love, and it is the essence of life itself.