|30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
First Thessalonians 1:5-10
So as to be more receptive to the Word and presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, we can imagine Jesus on the witness stand in a court room being cross examined by a group of tricky lawyers. They have in their hands the scrolls of the Law to which they are eager to refer. Jesus has an orphan on his lap to whom he is paying more attention than to his questioners.
“May we do with loving hearts what you ask of us….” These are words taken from the Opening Prayer of today’s liturgy. We can pray for such graces often and then be open to the littlest ways God desires us to share divine love with very human neighbors and family members. We may also pray for a spirit of loving ourselves which will then free us the more to embrace the “widows and orphans” of our lives.
In our First Reading, we hear a small section from a larger part of the Book of Exodus which deals with very practical issues of Jewish tribal life. The chapter from which today’s reading comes deals with other such matters as violating young women, repayments and what is to be done with the first fruits of the harvest. God, through the writings of Moses did not leave much to chance.
Widows and orphans were often mentioned in the Hebrew Scriptures, because of the importance of family solidarity. Widows and orphans needed to be taken care of as members of the larger communal family. Strangers and foreigners are to be welcomed and cared for as well, for they are reminders to the Jewish community that they too were once wanderers.
Lending and extortion is an important legal and religious area for care. The God of Israel is compassionate and so those under the covenantal care of God must reveal that same compassion even to returning of a person’s coat which has been given as collateral. All these little and large prescriptions of the Law were given so as to make visible and present, the particular and practical love which God has had for the people of Israel.
The Gospel is a Question-and-Answer session between the Jewish men of the law and Jesus the fullness of that law. Jesus is asked about how he reads the law and especially which of the laws does he consider the greatest or most important. In great simplicity Jesus answers that loving God and loving one’s neighbor are similar and the greatest. All the prophets and all the other laws depend on these two to be alive in the Jewish community. After this answer the court seems to be in recess.
We are confronted once more with the ancient problem of the true meaning of loving ourselves and that of what it means to love God with all our hearts and minds. To love God and to love our neighbor and to love ourselves, these are not easy for us.
Jesus came to save us from the real hell of self-hatred based on false identities. We can hate ourselves or better, not love ourselves, because we so easily identify our quality with our quantity. We love ourselves for the amount of good we find ourselves doing. None of us does the good we desire enough so as to love the self that God does. Jesus will warn the Pharisees and ourselves next Sunday about grasping at our true identities from outside. He came to save us by coming inside and asking us to believe in Him by believing what he says we are.
Loving God then is letting God love us from the inside out and the “out” is loving Jesus’ sisters and brothers from the outside in. Allowing God to be our personal creator is prelude to allowing Jesus to be our personal and collective savior as well. In this, we love the Artist and the art works including the self which may have less quantity, but abounds in graceful quality.
The “Great Commandment” then is to allow God to be God in our lives
and allow ourselves to be a mystery whose quality and quantity are gifts
to be accepted and then shared.
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