Theme: YOU MUST LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD AND YOU MUST LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF
- Exodus 22:20-26
- Psalm 17 (18): 2-4. 47. 51. R. v. 2
- Matthew 22:34-40
Today is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, or 30th Sunday of the Liturgical Year A. The readings today tell us that we must love the Lord our God with our whole heart, with our whole soul, and with our whole mind, and we must love our neighbor as ourselves!
In the gospel today, Jesus, or Matthew, joins the two commandments into one commandment! The two commandments, that is, the first and second commandments cannot be separated!
In other words, if we do not love our neighbor, we cannot love God! As St. John puts it in his first letter, “Anyone who says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, is a liar, since no one who fails to love the brother whom he can see can love God whom he has not seen.” (1John 4:20)
Again, the two commandments cannot be separated, again, and more importantly, we cannot love our neighbor if we do not love God! How can we love our neighbor if we do not love God, if we do not have faith in God, if we do not believe in God, if we do not pray, if we do not come to Mass, if we do not have the Holy Spirit, if we do not have the love of God in our hearts? If we do not love God, our love for our neighbor will be unconscious self-love and our service to our neighbor will be unconscious self-service! That is why to love God is the greatest and the first commandment!
And most importantly, the gospel tells us implicitly, that we love God because God first loved us! We love our neighbor because God first loved us! And we love ourselves because God first loved us! This is the eternal truth of the gospel and by this eternal gospel truth we are saved by our God who is eternal, who has no beginning and no end!
The first reading from the book of Exodus tells us about the social dimension of love of neighbor! Just as we love God and love ourselves on the intrapersonal (within) level and we love our neighbor on the interpersonal (between) level, we also love our neighbor on the meta-personal level (beyond the personal level), that is, the societal level, the public level, the political level, the economic level, the structural level, etc.!
It is here that we address the issues of social justice, liberation of the oppressed, human rights, changing the structures of society, the poor, and even the protection of the environment, etc.!
Thus we read in the first reading, ‘The Lord said to Moses, ‘tell the sons of Israel, “you must not molest the stranger or alien, you must not oppress the stranger or alien, you must not ill-treat the widow and the orphan, you must not earn interest from the poor when you lend money to the poor, and you must return the pledge, the pawn, the security to the poor, when you lend money to the poor”’’!
But most importantly, the responsorial psalm tells us that we love God because he is our strength, our rock, (our bulwark, our wall, our defense, NJB), our refuge, our fortress, our help, our stronghold, our shield, our savior, our victory and our love!
The responsorial psalm ends with this praise of God, “He has given great victories to his king and shown his love for his anointed”!
The responsorial psalm is a psalm of King David thanking God for his military victories over his enemies!
Today the Lord continues to love us in the Holy Spirit so that we can continue to love Him, to love our neighbor, and to love ourselves! Today in this Eucharist we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and we eat his body and drink his blood, and our Risen Lord will give us his Holy Spirit and continue to love us so that we can continue to love him, love our neighbor, and love ourselves! This is the good news!
Parish Priest of St Mary, Tawau, Sabah East Malaysia.