30th Sunday of Ordinary Time (24 October 2020)

Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thess 1:5-10; Matt 22:34-40

The readings this week all revolve around the life of the Christian. Without question we are justified by the grace of God through our faith, belief and hope in the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ; but those of faith will be transformed by the encounter with the living Lord so as to live in imitation of the Holy One who is love.

The first reading emphasizes the practical application of the law of love. God spoke to Moses and taught him that as children of God the Jews had to live as ones who had learnt from being exposed to God’s ways. They had lived in Egypt as foreigners and so were asked to be loving and welcoming towards those who were foreigners in their midst. For so long they had been oppressed and outnumbered but had repeatedly been rescued by the grace of God. And so they were asked to ensure that they specially tended to the widows and the orphans. When the Jews lent money they were not to exploit the misfortune of the poor by taking interest on the loan; and if the borrower pledged his property to secure the loan then the lender was expected to allow the borrower to use that property as long as he needed it to survive. In everything God asks that we put those in need ahead of our own desires and ourselves. God is love and His greatest favour is kept for those in the greatest need. He asks that as His children we imitate Him. This is the essence of Christian living.

This theme is echoed in the second reading. Paul asks the Thessalonians to reflect on the way of life that Paul and his companions practiced while living in their midst. To Paul, everything he did had to reflect the reality of the presence of God in his life. And in this way he prayed that he could imitate the Lord in his life; and in turn those who turned to the Lord through his ministry would also live in the imitation of Christ. Paul commended the Thessalonians for turning to the faith despite the opposition and hostility that surrounded them. This showed the strength of their faith and in turn inspired communities elsewhere to turn to the Lord. For Paul, the essence of their conversion lay in the fact that they had become servants of the Lord – a clear reference to the manifestation of the Living God in the way they lived.

In the Gospel, Jesus pulls all these themes together in His articulation of the Law in all its profoundness and yet in all its simplicity. The Pharisee’s question might have appeared difficult to some. But in the hands of the Lord, it becomes the platform from which He sets out the heart of the entire Law in two profound statements. First, we must love God, above everything, with intensity of heart, mind, body and soul. This must be a consuming, life-giving love if it is to even approach the intensity of God’s love for us. And second, that love must burst forth in the love for our neighbor. If God is love, then it is meaningless and futile to say we love God intensely without reflecting that in an intense self-giving love for those around us.

God who is not tangible to us in a material way and who needs nothing from us, instead gives us the opportunity to display our love for Him in our dealings with the very tangible beings around us who are so much in need of love, affection and attention. And when we do, like the Thessalonians we too demonstrate the presence of the Living God in our lives and in this way, inspire others to come to Him also.

Some points for reflection as you read the passages:

  1. In today’s context how are we unwelcoming towards those we consider to be marginalized or unfamiliar? How would you apply the teaching on loans?
  2. In what ways do you think your life can be counted as an imitation of Christ? Is there something specific you could resolve to do to make it more so?
  3. What challenges do you face in trying to keep the first and most important commandment? Can the first commandment exist without the second?