30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus is often called “teacher” in the gospels, and, as for every teacher, questions are posed to him. However, he rarely answers a question; if he does, he might adopt the well-known Irish strategy of answering a question with a question. Yet, for this moment and this question, Jesus responds immediately and decisively, regardless of the tainted motive of the questioner.
While there had been conflicts between Jesus and the Pharisees and Sadducees leading up to this latest challenge (all of which had been motivated by a desire to smear the reputation of Jesus), Jesus’s answer to this newest test lifts the encounter to a higher plane. Regarding which is the greatest commandment, Jesus replies by quoting the Shema, Judaism’s most exalted and most recited biblical passage from Deuteronomy 6:5: You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. By widening this stance to include love for the neighbor, Jesus has forever provided a measure by which the authenticity of our love for God can be tested.
In his First Letter, Saint John, in blunt and straightforward language, says, If anyone says, ‘I love God but hates his brother, he is a liar.’ There is an intimate connection between the two, a unity as if they were two sides of the same coin. None of this is news to us. What Christian has not heard these texts countless times in their lifetime? And yet, hearing and doing don’t always follow. Today’s first reading offers guidance towards making it real in our lives: be kind to strangers, widows, and orphans.
O Lord, bound to you in charity, may our lives bear fruit through acts of kindness.