30th Sunday in Ordinary time
Exodus 22: 20-26
1 Thessalonians 1: 5-10
Over the last few Sundays, we have listened to how the different Jewish leaders kept setting traps for Jesus. Jesus on the other hand turned the tables on them with his parables and insightful observations so that they fell into their own traps and were made to look the fools.
Today’s Gospel is no less different. On hearing that the Sadducees had failed to trip Jesus up, the Pharisees thought that they would have another go at cornering Jesus. As devout followers of the Law, they saw themselves as the protectors of the Jewish faith and traditions. Their test to ensnare Jesus was to ask which of the 613 laws was the greatest.
Not only does Jesus reply with the greatest: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind’ but he goes further to give the second greatest commandment: ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’
For Jesus faith in God was not about the minutia of the ritual, liturgical or moral laws. His summary of the commandments was to love God first. From this will flow our love for humanity.
The reading from Exodus commands us to learn from our past. Despite maybe being mistreated and taken for a ride we are not to do the same to others. The marginalised and weakest of society bear the brunt of the oppressor – this must not be our way.
God has loved each of us even before we knew it. So we are therefore made to and for love.
But what is love? Throughout history songs, poems, books and films have been written about love. We have a deep yearning to find, live and give it.
In the face of the many crises waging around us, from the personal (family, work, broken friendships) to the international level (the horrendous loss of civilian lives in Gaza, Israel and the Ukraine) may we always keep alive in our hearts and lives the Greatest and second greatest commandments – to LOVE God first and then our neighbour as ourselves.
1 Corinthians 13:4-6, 8 is a series of practical ways to live love: Love is always patient and kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited; it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage; it does not take offence at wrongdoings; but finds its joy in the truth … Love never comes to an end.
Victoria Raw is parishioner of Te Whetu O Te Moana, Star of the Sea Marlborough, NZ and is active in lay ministry.