October 25, 2020: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
When I read this Gospel passage or hear it proclaimed, I often wonder what that “scholar of the law” thought when Jesus responded the way he did. Was the scholar taken back because he expected a simple, direct answer? Did he feel that perhaps he was in the presence of one who was sharing a profound understanding of the purpose and meaning of the commandments in the daily lives of Jews in his time?
In his mind, did Jesus “pass the test?” I recall a homilist preaching on this Gospel who stated that the scholar asked Jesus for a commandment and Jesus gave him a proclamation. If that was what the scholar experienced in his interaction with Jesus, what was the effect of that proclamation on him? Did he just want one statement about which commandment Jesus would uphold as the pinnacle of all of them? And was he disappointed or frustrated with the response?
Did hearing Jesus’ response possibly act as a way for him to better understand not only God’s desire to be in a loving relationship with each person but also for each person to seek to be in right relationship with all others?
What effect does this response have on us? Jesus, in answering the question, reveals that to honor God means to love God directly and to extend that loving relationship to others. God’s people must reach outward to those who are both close by and in distant places. As God showers us with mercy, generosity, faithfulness and patience, we are to share that experience of being loved with others. The two commandments are intertwined, they are inseparable. They are a proclamation of what our mission as Jesus’ followers obliges us to do.
Take time this week to identify one concrete way to love another person who may be difficult to love. Perhaps that person is distant from you on the theological or ecclesial or political spectrum. Pray about reaching out and finding a way to fulfill Jesus’ command.