Reflections on the readings of the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted in Uncategorized by Mike on October 25, 2008

Ex 22:20-26; 1 Thes 1:5c-10; Mt 22:34-40

John Paul served as the patriarch of the West and the bishop of Rome for a quarter century.  In one letter he wrote, he made this observation: “The meaning of life is in giving and receiving love.”  The readings for the thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time strike the same theme: compassion of one human being for another is an integral component of the love that exists between God and the human person.

In the first reading, a reading from the Book of Exodus, we hear God tell what God will do for the dispossessed and the oppressed.  God promises to hear the cry of the widow and orphan.  God will listen to our poor neighbors and attend to their plea.  Because of this engagement by God in the lives of God’s people, each of us receives a charge to attend to the needs of all of those who have not received the blessings we have received.  It is a duty incumbent upon us as people who have received more: More is expected of us.  The first reading lays down this lesson with neither ambiguity nor equivocation.

In the gospel, a scholar of the Mosaic law asks Jesus which among the laws is the greatest, and Jesus replies that we shall love the Lord our God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and that after this, we must love our neighbors as though our neighbors were our very selves.  Everything else in our faith, Jesus teaches us, flows from these two commandments.  Love of God and neighbor are the foundations of our religion.

So the readings of the thirtieth Sunday evoke a consistent theme: We are to set ourselves on the Lord’s path, and an inherent attribute of this walk is our commitment to our neighbors.  Such charges have practical implications in our day-to-day lives.

Jesus says elsewhere in the gospel, “Give to everyone who asks you.”  If when the panhandler on the street asks us for a few coins, we go walking coldly past, we fail our charge to love freely.  It would be best to give a little money and even offer a quiet prayer for the person.  But if there is nothing in our pockets and we cannot give, we have a duty, I think, to offer a prayer, a smile, an apology, and a word of encouragement.  The poor we have with us always, and they come to us in myriad forms, in the homeless, in the victims of disaster, in a tired spouse and frustrated child.  The poor we have in many forms all through our lives.  We have a charge to love, and in giving love, we open ourselves to the reception of love.  And so it is through all the events of our lives, we lift ourselves up to God by the movement of our hearts outwards toward one another, inviting them in return to move their hearts back to us.  Why?  Because the meaning of life is in giving and receiving love, and love is a movement that involves me, my neighbor, and God.  In these we fashion the meaning of our existence.

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