WHOEVER LOVES MEETS GOD – 29 OCTOBER 2017 – 30TH Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Ex 22:20-26; I Thess 1:5-10; Mt 22:34-40
Fernando Armellini SCJ
Claretian Publications, Macau

In the great Commandment with two parts, the first is the love of God, that must involve three faculties: the heart, the soul and the mind.

God, first of all, is to be loved with an undivided heart. Today there are believers, people in the church, who fulfill all religious practices, but at the same time worship their bank account, social position, honorary titles, career, power and their ambitions. They have indeed a “divided heart.”

With all your life (soul). The believer is required to have the willingness to sacrifice everything (money, interest, emotional ties and rights), and even the courage to face martyrdom, while not failing in his/her faith. Loving God, trusting him can lead to — and it happens often — the need of making choices and heroic sacrifices.

With all your mind. Even the rational aspect is part of the love of God. Emotions cannot be the object of a commandment. However, anyone interested in futility, who spends more time with frivolous arguments, who gossips about celebrities rather than studies the word of God, who ignores the theological and moral issues today, who does not undertake to investigate the reasons of his/her faith, is less involved in the love of God.

After having stated what is the greatest commandment, Jesus adds that this is also the first. He makes this specification to introduce the second, which is like the first: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 39).

The concluding statement: “The whole Law and the Prophets are founded on these two commandments” They should be taken as criteria for evaluating every precept. All laws are good if they are an expression of love. They should be rejected if they oppose it, because they are a hindrance to the good of the people.

We know what it means to love others, even though it is not always easy to determine how this love can be made concrete. But how do we love God? The God of Jesus has never asked for anything for himself. He puts himself at the service of man, even to bending down to wash his feet and asks us to do the same: “If such has been the love of God—John says—we too must love one another” (1 Jn 4:11). For love of for people is still love turned to God, because it is directed to His image (Gen 1:27).




Love of God entails love of neighbor

Edmond Lo
www.FLL.cc

The first reading of this Sunday is part of the so-called Book of Covenant (Ex 20:22-23:19), which contains a collection of mainly casuistic laws. These are secular laws that emerged from practice; they serve to build up a realistic social order in a particular historical and cultural situation. They are developed from the deposit of divine law, but are NOT directly divine law; as such they are subject to further development and even correction. Reading the Torah without understanding this background often causes people to question the doctrine of biblical inerrancy as some of these casuistic laws may appear dubious from the perspective of current moral standards.

Another form of law in the Pentateuch is the apodictic law. This code of law is pronounced in the name of God himself; as such it provides a platform for critiquing and revising the rules of casuistic law. Best known among the apodictic laws is the Decalogue. Interestingly, included in the Book of Covenant are two parts of the apodictic law: Ex 22:20, which is in the first reading, and Ex 23:9-12; both of which emphasize man’s social responsibility for the marginalized: the aliens, the poor, the widowed, and the orphans. What is the significance of all this? Read on.

The fundamental norm in the Torah, on which everything depends, is the exclusive worship of the one God, YHWH. Love of God, to put it simply, overshadows everything. The inclusion of the social responsibility for the poor, widows, orphans, and aliens means that love of neighbor is just as important as love of God. The two commandments are inseparable and intertwined. For what is love of God without love of neighbor? “Neighbor” is understood in this context as recognition of God’s immediate presence in the weak and poor.

Jesus affirmed this teaching clearly in the gospel reading when he put together the two commandments: first, “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and second, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt. 22:37, 39). The theological dimension of love, fixated as it is on God, is without substance unless it is complemented by its social dimension, i.e. love of neighbor.  It is only when we love in this way that love is expressed in its truest and fullest form. No wonder Jesus went so far as to say, “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Mt 22:40).

References:

Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Book 1, pp 122-127.

R Hamel and K Himes, Introduction to Christian Ethics – A Reader, pp 10-13.

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