Daily Reflection
October 24th, 1999
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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The Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Exodus 22:20-26
1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
Matthew 22:34-40

We hear in today's First Reading of the Eucharistic liturgy, a small, but important section of the Hebrew law.  It is quite specific and centers our attention on God's relational care with the poor and the widowed.  God is saying, "remember how poor, how alienated and needy you were when I found you.  Now you treat others as I have treated you."

The Gospel pictures the Pharisees coming out of the huddle and lining up for one more trap-play.  They send their best offensive player, a scholar of the law, to entice Jesus into a discrediting mistake.

Matthew, who again and again presents Jesus as a new Moses, or new law-giver, has Jesus summarize the whole law by simplifying and complicating the law all at the same time.  Without any specifications nor legal loop-holes, Jesus says, "love your God, love yourself and love your neighbor."  Simple, but, ah, well, hmm, "how exactly do we do this.  What's expected?"

Christian spirituality, that is, our experienced relationship with Jesus, asks us to have a vision of all creatures which differs from a secular or natural view.  Jesus lived with this vision, this view of all those whom He met.  God has an intimate relationship with each of us which widens the meaning of "neighbor."  This vision begins with how I view myself.  We are required by this new law to love ourselves, because God does.  This is easier to write and read, than to pray and live.

As God reminded the Jews that they were loved into not being aliens, so Jesus in a similar way, reminds us that we have been loved into creation and salvation, not alienated from God's love, through this Christ.  Self-alienation is against the law.  Even more, interpersonal alienation is against the law as well.  Redemption is not an eternal end-of-time acquittal, it is meant to be a saving from the hell of self-hatred and hiding.

Jesus knows the human spirit and in a sense He says that if we don't love ourselves, because He does, then we can not love our neighbors, because we won't have a vision of who are our neighbors.  In a real sense, we won't have any neighbors to love.  How we fulfill the law of loving is our response to being love.  And here is the big thing; we fulfill the first and greatest commandment of loving God, by letting God love us.  What God wants, what Jesus is always asking for is this, "accept my love, my forgiveness, my grace and my call to be My neighbor."

The new law of love is simple in expression, but complicated by our fears, regrets, prejudices and lack of that new vision.  We all know how to love and we can write poems and sing songs about it, but reaching out, forgiving, befriending, risking and restarting, can be blind-spots in our vision.  We may find ourselves not real happy with the defense which Jesus offers to the scholar's question.  We may rather have had Jesus say a little word like, "sometimes" or "when you feel good," but no.  Jesus invites us to specify each moment of each day, how we will fulfill His new law.  The good news is that when we fail in loving our neighbor, Jesus doesn't stop loving our neighbor nor His.

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