Thus says the LORD: "You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. "If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate."
1) I love you, O LORD, my strength, O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. (Refrain:)
2) My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies. (Refrain:)
3) The LORD lives and blessed be my rock! Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king and showed kindness to your anointed. (Refrain:)
Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
For you yourselves know, brethren, that our visit to you was not in vain; but though we had already suffered and been shamefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in the face of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from error or uncleanness, nor is it made with guile; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please men, but to please God who tests our hearts. For we never used either words of flattery, as you know, or a cloak for greed, as God is witness; nor did we seek glory from men, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse taking care of her children. So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us.
(from The Bible Gateway)
And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho. And the LORD showed him all the land, Gilead as far as Dan, all Naph'tali, the land of E'phraim and Manas'seh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain, that is, the valley of Jericho the city of palm trees, as far as Zo'ar. And the LORD said to him, "This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, 'I will give it to your descendants.' I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not go over there." So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD, and he buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-pe'or; but no man knows the place of his burial to this day. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died; his eye was not dim, nor his natural abated. And the people of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid his hands upon him; so the people of Israel obeyed him, and did as the LORD had commanded Moses. And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, none like him for all the signs and the wonders which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and for all the mighty power and all the great and terrible deeds which Moses wrought in the sight of all Israel.
(from The Bible Gateway)
And the LORD said to Moses, "Say to all the congregation of the people of Israel, You shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy. You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor. You shall not go up and down as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not stand forth against the life of your neighbor: I am the LORD. You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason with your neighbor, lest you bear sin because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
(from The Bible Gateway)
- cf. Mark 12:28 - 34 and Matthew 18: 21-35
Otherwise the attendance at these rituals is useless, as noted in Hosea where God says "I desire steadfast love, not sacrifice".
- The new Catechism states that the Old Testament law was written on tablets (because men could not read it in their hearts) and prohibits what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor. The old law is a preparation for the new law which is written on our hearts and minds through the grace of the Holy Spirit. It can be summed up in the one command to love God and one another. The new law is a law of love, grace and freedom (cf. Catechism #1972).
Another paragraph of the Catechism states that the new law practices the acts of religion, namely prayer, fasting and almsgiving. With respect to prayer, the catechism points out that THE prayer of the New Testament is the Lord's Prayer. With respect to almsgiving, it is relevant to point out that the giving of a loan without interest, which is referenced in the first reading, is in fact nothing other than almsgiving.
Now we need to take this one step further. If you do get involved, you need to be aware of the pitfalls involved, namely, that the devil will take our good intentions and make them bad ones. I'm sure that some of the Pharisees started their training with the noblest of motives. But somewhere along the way, they got used to the perks of their positions: sitting at the places of honor at the table, wearing fine clothes and living in luxurious homes. They lost their direction along the way. We have all heard stories of clergy who have gone astray, whether priests or ministers. If we too answer God's call to serve the community in one capacity or another, we have to be constantly vigilant that we keep God ever in our sight. In his first letter to the Corinthians in that marvelous passage on love, Paul points out that no matter what we do, if we don't do it with love as its root, than it is all for nought. The devil works in insidious ways. Righteous feelings creep up before we even realize it.
- Cathechism: #1961 - 1972, 1980 - 1985
- Happy Those Who Hear/ Weston Priory (refrain and verse 4)
- The story is told about a woman who brought her husband to their pastor and told him, "I feel that my husband doesn't love me as much he should. So we're thinking of getting a divorce, but we want to know what you think." So the pastor said to the husband, "The Bible says you should love your wife as much as Christ loved his church. Can you do that?" He says, "No, I don't think so." The pastor says, "Well, then begin at a lower level. The Bible also says that you should love your neighbor as you love yourself. Can you at least love her as much as you would love a neighbor?" The husband says, "No. That's still too difficult." In exasperation, the pastor finally told him, "The Bible says, 'Love your enemies'. Start there." (1)
In today's gospel passage, our Lord does in fact tell the Pharisees about the three-dimensional aspects of love: God, self and neighbor. First of all, in saying that one must love the Lord God with all of one's heart, soul and mind, Jesus is quoting from the Jewish "Shema", the prayer which forms the basic and essential creed of Judaism. It is the sentence with which every Jewish service still opens, and the first text which every Jewish child still commits to memory. It means that we should give to God a love which dominates our emotions, directs our thoughts and is the driving force behind all of our actions. What this provides is the fundamental basis for all religion because all religion starts with the love which is a total commitment of life to God.
Secondly, we have to love ourselves. We would think that this would be a given, but the reality is that it is far from something which can be taken for granted. Many people are born deformed, or with disabilities, or who have had abusive parents or spouses and do not love themselves, which, of course, will affect how they treat others. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that if someone doesn't love themselves, then they will have a difficult time loving others. Consider the following story. The author writes:
- "I used to hate myself. But for God's love, I might have been self-destructive. I did not love myself so I could not love anyone else, but I didn't realize that. I was a victim of racism. I was ten years old when Pearl Harbor was invaded. Although I was a Canadian, I was improperly identified as an "enemy alien" and on Monday morning when I arrived at the school yard, I was called, the "dirty, yellow Jap!" At that moment, oh how I wished I had been born white! It did not matter that I had been buying stamps for 25 cents each to stick into a War Savings Certificate book. It did not matter that I had been singing "God Save the King," and "O Canada" with all of the other children. We were registered and banished from the West Coast of British Columbia into camps in the interior "ghost" towns for the duration of the war. While we were in those camps, all of our property was auctioned off. When the war ended, we were resettled "East of the Rockies". Our family went to Southern Alberta. It was there that several communities, including the people of the Christian Churches, the Mennonites, and the Okinawans who had settled in the prairie towns between the two world wars, welcomed us. Their caring communicated their love to us and it helped to melt our hearts. Some years later a young woman came from Japan to be my wife; we did not meet until eleven days before we were married. But she brought a healthy breeze into my life. She did not carry the burdensome baggage of poor self-esteem that had so encumbered my life. I learned to love myself, and to love others, and to discover God's love which had been there all along. (2)
Thirdly, we have love of neighbor. In Luke's parallel passage to this one, a scribe also asks the question about the greatest commandment, but instead of answering it, our Lord throws the question back at him and asks him what the law says. "Strict orthodox Jews wore round their wrists little leather boxes called phylacteries, which contained certain passages of scripture, including 'You will love the Lord your God', which is from Deut.6:4 and Deut.11:13. To this law, the scribes had added Lev.19:18, which commands everyone to love their neighbor as themselves. So Jesus said to the scribe, 'Look at the phylactery on your own wrist and it will answer your question." (3) But not being content with answering his own question, the scribe asked another question "Who is my neighbor?" To answer this question, our Lord tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Now the Jews considered only fellow Jews to be their neighbors. But as the parable points out so well, it was "a man" who was going from Jerusalem to Jericho. Not a Jew, not a Levite, or even another Samaritan, just a man. Thus, the implications are that everyone, regardless of their race, color, religion, sex or national origin, is our neighbor and we must be prepared to help them. And, believe it or not, sometimes love is shown not only by our actions, but also by our words.
- One author tells the story of a couple who lived in a small town in Colorado named John and Louise. John was a ranchman, big, quiet and strong as a horse. By the time he was forty-five, he had invested his money and become a prosperous man.
Louise was a local girl who had finished high school and gone to work as a waitress in the restaurant in town. John met her there the summer when she was twenty. Soon he began driving in from his alfalfa farm every day for a ten o'clock cup of coffee.
This went on for three months. Then one morning, John said, "Louise, I want you to marry me". Louise caught her breath and almost spilled the coffee. They were married two weeks later.
A few years after their marriage, Louise was taken to the hospital, seriously ill. Her appendix had burst, but she rallied by dawn. The local doctor told John that they wouldn't know for twenty-four hours, but it looked as if the worst was over. John cried like a baby. "She's got to get well Doc," he told him. "She's got to!"
By evening her condition had worsened. Doc gave her two plasma transfusions during the night, yet she weakened steadily. "I'm just not strong enough," she whispered to the doctor.
"What do you mean?" Doc demanded.
"John is so strong he doesn't need me. If he did he'd say so, wouldn't he?"
In the office, Doc said to John, "She doesn't want to get well'.
"She's got to get well!" John exclaimed. "Look, Doc, how about a transfusion?"
The doctor explained that he had given her plasma.
"I mean my blood, Doc. I'm strong enough for both of us!"
The doctor led him down the hall. "Do you love that girl John?" he asked.
"Wouldn't have married her if I didn't," John said.
"Have you ever told her so?"
John's eyes were baffled. "Haven't I given her everything I could? What more can a man do?"
"Talk to her," Doc said.
"I'm not a talking man, Doc. Hell, she knows that? He gripped Doc's shoulders. "Give her some of my blood!"
The doctor thought a moment. Then he led John to the little laboratory, took a blood sample and typed it. At last he said, "All right, John. In ten minutes."
The doctor went to Louise's room and told her that John wanted to give her a transfusion, and there was a flicker of interest. He took her pulse. It was weak and fluttering slightly. He knew there was only a slim chance. Calling the nurse into the hall, he told her what he was going to do. In a few moments he led John into Louise's room. The operating table had been placed beside her bed, and a curtain rigged up between bed and table. The nurse held the curtain aside as John lay down on the table. As the needles were inserted in their arms, John put out a big, awkward hand and took Louise's hand.
"John," she whispered.
"I love you, John."
There was a moment of silence. Then John said, "Louise! You've got to get well!"
"Why?" she whispered.
"You've got to do it for me. I need you." John hesitated, and his voice choked. "I love you."
Her pulse almost surged."I love you, Louise. More than anything in the world. I love you and I need you, and by God, I'm going to make you well!"
After John had finished donating his pint of blood, the doctor removed the needle from Louise's wrist and took the plasma bottle from the rack beneath the towel and set them aside. He checked her pulse again. It was impossible, but there it was--steady and strong. He signaled to the nurse, who pulled the needle from John's arm, removed the jar from beside the operating table and drew the curtain aside. Then she and the doctor went out into the hall.
When the doctor returned several minutes later, John was sitting with both of Louise's hands in his, talking to her. Neither John nor Louise ever knew that John's blood was the wrong type for her. And what did it matter if she got another pint of plasma while his blood went into a glass jar? What that girl needed was John. And she got him. (4)
Today's gospel tells us that we need to put our priorities in order and love God above all else. And our love of God should come from our realization that God has first loved us, especially as shown through the life and example of his Son, Jesus Christ. Secondly, it means that we should have a healthy love of ourselves which comes from a knowledge of God's love for us. And thirdly, we must express that love of God and ourselves in our love of neighbor. And this love must be expressed in words and in actions. Sometimes the words come hardest of all.
1. From Learning to Love, by Erwin Lutzer in Preaching Today, Tape No. 99. From the Bible Illustrator, Parsons Technology, Hiawatha, IA.
3. From The Gospel of Matthew, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. Reprinted with permission from St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland.
4. Tell Her That You Love Her. Copyright 1949 by Hal Borland and the February 1949 Reader's Digest . From Chicken Soup for the Couple's Soul, copyright 1999 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Barbara De Angelis, Mark Donnelly and Chrissy Donnelly. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com.)
In the gospel reading, our Lord teaches us about God's law of love. Now before we move on, we need to look more closely at that phrase: God's law of love. There are really two aspects of this command. The first has to do with "what" Jesus taught us, namely to love God and one another. Then we have the "who", as in whose law Jesus taught us about, namely God's. In today's readings, we have been given a brief glimpse into God's law in both the Old and the New Law.
If we look back into history, we find that God first gave the law of love to the Israelites. It was summarized in the Ten Commandments, which were inscribed by the finger of God's own hand on tablets of stone, because God couldn't write them directly on the hearts of the Israelites. Then God the Father gave us the law of love in the New Law of the Gospel through his son, Jesus Christ, which is written on our hearts through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Here we see the workings of the Triune God in the New Law. And, just as the Old Law was crystalized in the ten commandments, the New Law of the Gospel can be summarized in the Sermon on the Mount, or the Beatitudes, which also demonstrate God's concern for the poor, the needy and the destitute. With these general facts in mind, we can now look at today's readings.
(Covenant:) In the first reading, we heard a small portion of the Exodus text which follows the presentation by Moses to the Israelites of the Ten Commandments. These laws and prescriptions, which flow from the Ten Commandments, are referred to as the "Covenant at Mount Sinai", and are considered to be part and parcel of the Ten Commandments. As in the gospel, we see here the dual aspects of the law, namely: 1) that the Israelites should care for the poor, the widow, the orphan, - in essence: love one another, and 2) that it is God who has commanded them to do so. These guidelines then are not merely human law subject to prosecution in the courts. If the Israelites did not follow these laws, it is God who will exact retribution. The defenseless have no less than God himself as their defender and advocate, "for I am compassionate", says the Lord.
(Parable:) Just a few weeks ago, we heard the parable in which a king forgives a large debt that was owed to him by one of his servants. When the king hears later that the very same servant has had a fellow servant thrown in prison for owing him a small sum, the king sends for him and asks him "Should you not have dealt mercifully with your fellow servant, as I dealt with you?". In the parable, God is the king who has shown mercy to us, and we must in turn show mercy to the poor and the needy servants around us or we will wind up like the ungrateful servant. The psalmist too notes that when he called to the Lord, God heard him and saved him from his foes.
- There is a story about a gentile who went to a rabbi and told him that he would convert to Judaism if the rabbi could teach him the whole Torah while he was standing on one foot. The rabbi angrily threw him out, because he could not briefly sum up the whole law. The same man went to another rabbi and asked him the same question. This rabbi answered him: "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the basis upon which the whole law rests. Everything else is commentary."
In this story, we have an illustration of the two schools of thought within the Jewish leaders at our Lord's time: one which sought to specify the law down to its minutest detail and one which wished to discover the "heart" of the law. Unfortunately, most must have favored the former. However, Our Lord definitely taught us that the whole law could be summed up in one command: to love God and one another.
(Historical Perspective:) In considering today's gospel, we need to put it into its historical perspective. In Matthew's gospel, it occurs after Christ's triumphant entry into Jerusalem and after he has cast out the money changers from the temple. This passage, and those which immediately precede and follow it in Matthew 21 - 23, chronicle our Lord's last efforts to reach the Pharisees. It is after these exchanges and events that the Pharisees decide that nothing short of the elimination of Christ will suffice. In many ways, these passages reflect the first confrontations which our Lord had with the Pharisees, as recorded in Matthew, Chapter 12.
In this gospel passage, Our Lord laid down the complete definition of religion which begins in law:
1) religion consists in loving God. This verse which Jesus quotes is from the Jewish "Shema", the prayer which forms the basic and essential creed of Judaism. It is the sentence with which every Jewish service still opens, and the first text which every Jewish child still commits to memory. It means that we should give to God a love which dominates our emotions, directs our thoughts and is the dynamic of our actions (cf. Deuteronomy 6:5). All religion starts with the love which is a total commitment of life to God. And,
2) our love for God must be shown in our love for neighbor (cf. Leviticus 19:18). Christ was the first one to put these two commands together and prioritize them.
So what is the purpose of religion anyway? Couldn't we get along without it? Why do we come to these liturgies week after week? Is it just because the church has said that we should? Or could it possibly be that we NEED to come regularly, to hear God's word spoken to us and have it explained in today's language, and to participate in the Eucharist? Since we do not always follow God's law perfectly, then we need to be constantly reminded about it. Now the next question is: what are "liturgies" anyway?
According to the catechism, the meaning of "liturgy" is threefold: it refers first of all to the celebration of divine worship; but it also includes 2) the proclamation of the gospel; and, 3) active charity. So religion is our belief in, and love of, God manifested in our attendance at regular worship services and in our love for one another. So, as important as attending regular church services is, in order to be complete, religion and liturgy need to be carried beyond the worship space and into our daily lives. Earlier we mentioned that the Triune God was at work in the New Law. How can we expect to find the Father in prayer and the Spirit in our hearts if we do not recognize and serve the Son in the brothers and sisters with whom he identifies himself. Which finally brings me to the main point here: how do we show God our love?
One of the ways that we can demonstrate our love and concern for one another is through our own involvement in our local church. There is always a need for eucharistic ministers, lectors, choir members, ministers to visit the sick and the homebound and bring them communion, and others to seek out those who have fallen away from the church, to name but a few. Our community's needs are enormous. In fact, if every one of you signed up for a committee or ministry, there would still be needs to be filled. I know that many of you may think that you have no talents to share. But God has given you the greatest gift of all to share: your life and your time.
- Some years ago when my youngest daughter Meg was born, I had to take some time off from work to care for my other children. Every night that week, a meal was brought in to us fully prepared and ready to serve from a family in the parish where I was choir director/organist at the time. I was amazed and ever so grateful for those meals, since my culinary skills leave much to be desired. Besides, I had only been there a few months at the time. Soon though, we were participating in this giving ourselves. This is the kind of impact you too can have through your activities in the church.
Jesus insisted that the greatest ritual service of all is the service of human need. Christian service, therefore, has its beginning in ritual worship, but finds its fulfillment only in the service of human need. Human need takes precedence over any other, which the Pharisees neglected to see. We will not be judged by the number of church services that we have attended, or by the number of chapters of the Bible that we have read, or even by the number of the hours that we have spent in prayer, but by the number of people whom we have helped, when their need came crying to us, just as their cries went to God in the First Reading. We must begin answering those cries for help right here and right now. In conclusion, please consider responding to the commands which our Lord gave us in today's gospel, to love God and one another, by giving some of the time which has been so generously granted to you, back to God in service to one another.
(Copyright 2002 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for use, in whole or in part, in oral presentations. For permission to use in writing, please contact the human intermediary at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Lord Jesus, you have taught us to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you showed us the depth of your love for us by your death on the cross. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you call us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Our Lord has taught us to love God with all of our mind, heart and soul, and one another as ourselves. Confident that God will hear our prayers, we place our needs, and the needs of one another, before him.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, teach us to love."
That the leaders of the Church will be exemplary examples of the love of God for his people, we pray to the Lord.
That the people of the nations of the world will put aside their differences and live in peace with their neighbors, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the elderly and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will see the love that God has for them in our caring and concern, we pray to the Lord.
That all Christians who are suffering persecution will be strong in their faith and an example to others, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our children may have a blessed and happy Halloween as they celebrate the vigil of All Saints Day, we pray to the Lord.
That the members of our parish community will be examples of God's love to all those with whom we come into contact in our families, neighborhoods and work places, we pray to the Lord.
That all of our brothers and sisters will be treated as our equals in the site of God regardless of their race, color, nationality or religion, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those who have contracted the Corona virus will be healed, that those who have died will be welcomed into the loving arms of their Savior who suffered for them and that their grieving families will find strength in their faith, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Loving Father, your Son has taught us to love you above all else and to love one another as ourselves. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to put into practice in our daily lives the guidance that he has given us. And we ask this through Christ, your Son and our Lord. Amen.