October 25th – XXX Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” (Matthew 22:36)

We hear this question in today’s gospel. This is more than just a trick question that the Pharisees offer up to Jesus. We hear this question and immediately think that Jesus has to choose from among the 10 commandments given to Moses. But the Pharisees really want to put Jesus to the test because their question goes much deeper. You see, the Jews observed 613 commandments that are present in the first five books of the Bible and now Jesus had to choose the greatest of them. Jesus simplifies things and doesn’t make up any new commandment. Rather, he quotes two that are already present in the Scriptures. When telling us to love God with all our strength, heart, and mind, he is quoting Deuteronomy 6:5.  When he tells us that we must love our neighbor like ourselves, he quotes Leviticus 19:18. So Jesus is not reinventing the wheel here, he is merely summarizing the whole law in one word: love. 

There is a twofold dimension to this love: love of God and love of neighbor. One cannot exist without the other. St. John speaks of this in his first letter when he says that we cannot love God, whom we can’t see, if we don’t love our neighbor who we do see (see 1 John 4:19). So this begs the question: do we love our neighbor? I have another that goes even deeper and may be a bit more challenging: do we know our neighbor? There are so many people around us that walk in and out of our lives like strangers. We don’t engage them. We don’t talk to them. They are our coworkers, classmates, members of our family, and even the very people that we worship with every single Sunday who are currently sitting right next to you or near you since we’re socially distant in church. These are our neighbors who we are called to love. Do we know them?

A long time ago, I was preaching to a group of children and I asked them who is their neighbor and why does Jesus tell us to love them. One of them answered: “because Jesus is present in every one of us.” It’s amazing how children can comprehend the mysteries of God’s love even more than we can. Yes, Jesus is present in the poor, the downtrodden, the immigrant, the imprisoned, and every single person that we find it difficult to see Jesus’ face in. Yet, we are called to love them nonetheless. We live in polarizing times where we find it easier to dislike someone for a particular point of view than to love them regardless of how they see the world. Mother Teresa once said, “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” Get to know your neighbor. Not just what you perceive, but get to know what is really in their heart so that you can love them as our Lord asks us to. All it takes is a smile, an embrace, an act of love. In fact, you might want to look up from the bulletin and start with the person sitting next to you.

God bless you all,

Fr Manny Signature