30th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)
The greatest commandment
1. Opening prayer
a) A key to the reading:
In the Gospel of the 30th Sunday of ordinary time, the Pharisees want to know what Jesus thinks is the greatest commandment of the law. This theme was much discussed among the Jews of those days. It was a regular debate. Today too, people wish to know what defines a person as a good Christian. Some say that this consists in being baptized, praying and going to Mass on Sunday. Others say it consists in practising justice and living out fraternity. Each has his or her opinion. According to you, what is the most important thing in religion and in the life of the Church? When reading this text try to pay great attention to the way Jesus answers the question.
34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they got together 35 and, to put him to the test, one of them put a further question, 36 'Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?' 37 Jesus said to him, 'You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the greatest and the first command-ment. 39 The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets too.'
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) What did you like most in this text or what touched you most? Why?
5. For those who wish to go deeper into the theme
a) The context of this text as it appears in the Gospel of Matthew:
This is one of the many discussions Jesus had with the religious authorities of that time. This time it was with the Pharisees. First, the Pharisees had tried to discredit Jesus with the people by spreading calumnies about him saying that he was possessed by devils with which he drove out Beelzebub (Mt 12:24). Now, in Jerusalem, they enter once more into a discussion with Jesus concerning the interpretation of the law of God.
b) A commentary on the text:
Matthew 22:34-36: A question put by the Pharisees
Matthew 22:37-40: Jesus’ reply.
c) A deepening:
The word “Pharisees” means “separate” because their rigid way of observing the Law of God separated them from others. Among themselves they called each other companions because they formed a community whose ideal was that of observing absolutely the norms and all the commandments of the law of God. The way of life of most of them was a witness to the people because they lived by their labour and dedicated many hours every day to study and meditation on the law of God. But there was something very negative: they sought their safety not in God but in the rigorous observance of the Law of God. They trusted more in what they did for God than in what God did for them. They had lost the notion of gratuity, which is the source and fruit of love. Before such a false attitude towards God, Jesus reacts firmly and insists on the practice of love that makes the observance of the law and of its true meaning relative. In an age of change and uncertainty, such as now, the same temptation reappears, that of seeking safety before God, not in the goodness of God towards us, but in the rigorous observance of the Law. If we succumb to such a temptation, then we deserve the same censure from Jesus.
ii) A parallel between Mark and Matthew:
In the Gospel of Mark, it is a doctor of the law who asks the question (Mk 12:32-33). After listening to Jesus’ reply, the doctor agrees with Him and draws the following conclusion: "Yes, to love God and the neighbour is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice". Or else, the commandment of love is the most important among all the commandments concerned with cult and sacrifices of the Temple and with external observances. This statement already existed in the Old Testament from the time of the prophet Hosea (Hos 6:6; Ps 40:6-8; Ps 51:16-17). Today we would say that the practice of love is more important than novenas, promises, fasts, prayers and processions. Jesus approves of the conclusion reached by the doctor of the law and says: "You are not far from the Kingdom"! The Kingdom of God consists of this: acknowledging that the love of God is equal to the love of neighbour. We cannot reach God without giving ourselves to the neighbour!
iii) The greatest commandment:
The greatest commandment and the first is this: "You must love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind" (Mk 12:30; Mt 22:37). In so far as the people of God, throughout the centuries, understood the meaning of this love, to that extent did they become aware that the love of God is real and true only if it is made concrete in the love of neighbour. That is why the second commandment resembles the first (Mt 22:39; Mk 12:31). "Anyone who says, ‘I love God’, and hates his brother, is a liar" (1Jn 4:20). "On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also" (Mt 22:40). Because of this identification of the two loves, there has been an evolution in three phases:
1st Phase: "Neighbour", is the relative of the same race
2nd Phase: "Neighbour" is the one I approach or who approaches me
3rd Phase: The measure of our love for the “neighbour” is the love with which Jesus loves us
6. Psalm 62
In God alone there is rest for my soul
In God alone there is rest for my soul,
Rest in God alone, my soul!
Put no trust in extortion,
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.
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