30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mt 22:34-40)

A scholar of the Law asks Jesus, of the 613 laws written in the Torah, which is the most important?  Now this is a trick question, for no matter which one Jesus picks he will be judged as answering incorrectly since to the Pharisees all the laws were considered to be of equal importance. This is like a mother who picks two shirts for her son—a blue one and a red one—and asks which one he likes the best.  He says he likes both of them equally.  She asks him to put one of them on; so he puts on the blue one and his mother says, “So you don’t like the red one?

Torah

Torah

Instead of choosing one law as most important, Jesus responds with two; neither from among the expected 613 laws.

The first and most important commandment that Jesus quotes is from Deuteronomy, it is called the ‘Shema Israel’ which is “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Fervent Jews say it at least twice a day and by reciting it during their daily chores they become more aware of God’s presence while remembering that the most important thing in their life is to love God above everything and everyone.

The second one is from Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” This is not the first or only time that Jesus combined the commandments to love God and neighbor. In John, he says that “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.’” Jesus taught us that we must love even our enemies:  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.”

Loving all of God’s creation—our neighbors—is often a difficult concept to accept or to put into action. Last year, as I was teaching a confirmation class, I told my students that God created us in his own image and that He loves each of us as if we were His only one. Because we are His creation and He loves us we must in turn love our Creator with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind. I went on to say that if we love God we must also in turn love all his creation which means we must love everyone—our neighbors—as well. One student, who had had some serious difficulties in his short life, responded incredulously “Even cops?” Yes, I replied, even cops. To love God is to love one’s neighbor, and vice versa. No exceptions. We must love everyone because we have all been created in God’s image. Whether we like everyone is a different matter, altogether.

God is love and everything he does flows from his love for us. God’s love tempers everything he does – including his justice, mercy, kindness, and goodness. The love of God comes first and the love of neighbor is firmly grounded in the love of God. The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what he loves and reject what is hateful and contrary to his will.

As God’s love makes a home in us, we reach out to love the people that God brings into our lives. As John puts it, it is a contradiction to say, “I love God,” and turn away from a brother, a sister, or a neighbor. Love is not a prize to be hoarded, but a gift to be given away. If we love God who first loved us, it always leads us to love those around us.

To love God with one’s whole heart means to give our wholehearted yes to life and all that life brings with it. It means to accept, without reservation, all that God has ordained for one’s life. It means to have the attitude that Jesus had when he said, “[N]ot as I will, but as You will.” To love God with one’s whole heart is to make one’s own the words of Dag Hammarsjold who said, “For all that has been, Thanks. To all that we shall be, Yes.”

Deacon Chuck

About the author: Deacon Chuck

Deacon Chuck was ordained into the permanent diaconate on September 17, 2011, in the ministry of service to the Diocese of Reno and assigned to St. Albert the Great Catholic Community. He currently serves as the parish bulletin editor and website administrator. Deacon Chuck continues to serve the parish of Saint Albert the Great Catholic Community of the Diocese of Reno, Nevada. He is the Director of Adult Faith Formation and Homebound Ministries for the parish, conducts frequent adult faith formation workshops, and is a regular homilist. He currently serves as the bulletin editor for the parish bulletin. He writes a weekly column intended to encompass a broad landscape of thoughts and ideas on matters of theology, faith, morals, teachings of the magisterium and the Catholic Church; they are meant to illuminate, illustrate, and catechize the readers and now number more than 230 articles. His latest endeavor is "Colloqui: A journal for restless minds", a weekly journal of about 8 pages similar in content to bulletin reflections. All his reflections, homilies, commentaries, and Colloqui are posted and can be found on his website: http://deaconscorner.org. Comments are always welcome and appreciated. He is the author of two books: "The Voices of God: hearing God in the silence" which offers the reader insights into how to hear God’s voice through all of the noise that surrounds us; and "Echoes of Love: Effervescent Memories" which through a combination of prose and verse provides the reader with a wonderful journey on the way to discovering forever love. He regularly speaks to groups of all ages and size and would welcome the opportunity to speak to your group.

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