Thirtieth Sunday of Ordinary Time
I Thessalonians 1:5-10
Matthew 22: 34-40
Please respond yes to the following questions? Do you love the God the Father with all of our heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind? Do you love the Jesus Christ with all of our heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind? Do you love the Holy Spirit with all of our heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind? Do you love your neighbor with all of our heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind? Do you love yourself with all of our heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your mind? You just proved why these readings are so powerful for us because the response got quieter as I asked the questions. All of this will be challenged by what Jesus said and how he said it.
In our Gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus, “What commandment is the greatest?” With over 600 different laws to follow they want Jesus to boil it down to one. This is one of the times that Jesus does answer the questions as he responds, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your entire mind, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The first part of his answer would not have been surprising to them, “To love the Lord, with all of your heart, and all of your mind.” This is the Shema prayer; they would have been saying this every day. In saying this prayer the people are giving their fullest attention to God, we should be doing the same.
It is in the second part of his answer that Jesus makes a dramatic change in making one commandment. Jesus says, “We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.” To love God is to love our neighbor because God is all love. We should ask, “Then who is our neighbor?” Jesus would respond, “Everyone!” In our first reading that we come to an understanding of what Jesus is talking about. We see that God has a special place for those who poor, vulnerable, alienated or rejected. God says, “I will hear their cries.” All those people we keep at a distance for whatever reason, God has a special place for them in his heart. It does not matter what this person is worth to us, what matters is the worth they have with God.
Finally, what makes this Gospel, so challenging is, “We are to love our neighbor as ourselves.” So, I will go back and ask, “Do we love ourselves?” The best thing about turning sixty is that it is the age of wisdom. When I was 40, or even 50, when I heard about someone turning 60, I thought they are so wise. I now know who I am and I know what I can do and what I cannot do, and I am ok with both ends of that spectrum. When we love ourselves, we accept everything about ourselves and what other people think does not bother us as much as it may have previously. How we love ourselves will tell a lot of how we love God and how we will love our neighbor.
In closing, think about how God loves us right now, not because we have done anything great or good, he loves us because he created us. God even loves us when we have done something wrong. Now think of those people God has put in our lives, can we make a conscious effort to love them just for who they are, not because they have done something good but just love them? Now think of those people who we are having a difficult time loving right now? Can we make a conscious effort to love just for who they are, setting aside the hurt, setting aside the hurtful words and the disturbing actions?
May the Eucharist give us the strength to “Love the Lord, your God, with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with our entire minds, and to love your neighbor as yourself.” May we live our lives in such as way unless God did exist?