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 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
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.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
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.”
This Sunday it is the Pharisees turn by themselves to test our Lord with a question. Although it does not appear in today’s Gospel, Jesus then asks them a question and they could not answer Him or would not answer Him. Then he tells the people to listen to the Pharisee’s and to follow their teaching, but never follow their example because they preach but do not practice.
This seems to be one of the calls to conversion this Sunday: practice what you preach! Most of us adult human beings tend to preach to others about a variety of things. We are quite good at giving suggestions and advice. Today we are invited to look at our own lives and see if we practice what we tell others to do! This can be true in all the areas of our life, but particularly in any spiritual area where we speak to others, we need to be aware of the deep resonance that practice should have with preaching.
The first reading, from the Book of Exodus, is the same kind of advice to us: do to others what you want done to yourselves. And don’t do to others what you don’t want done to yourselves. We hear the command of God not to oppress the alien. We might at least wonder how that Word of God shapes our own thinking about immigration into our own country, whether legal or illegal? We might wonder if this Word of God has any force or effect in our lives?
And then the Book of Exodus goes on to admonish us to care for the widow and the orphan. Again we might wonder if we ever give any thought at to those who are unprotected by rights in our present cultures, since is surely what God is trying to teach us: watch out for those who cannot protect themselves.
Then we are told not to charge interest and not to take the cloak of another as a pledge. Today we do charge interest on loans and it is no longer seen as unjust. But we can hear the principles at work here: if a person is really poor, don’t completely flatten him or her. Instead, try to help the person. All this is summed up again in the Gospel: love God with all your strength and love your neighbor as yourself. It sounds easy, as always, but it is never easy with to love the Lord or to love our neighbor.
Perhaps as we grow spiritually we come to understand a bit how God works in our world and we do come to love God more and more. And perhaps we also learn to love our neighbor—but both of these loves both of these aspects of one love are usually processed that take within us as we begin to choose for the Lord and His ways.
Let us pray today for perseverance in striving to follow our Divine Master, Jesus. Let us pray that we will see His teachings at work in our lives and loves as we walk in His steps. May our hearts rejoice that He has chosen us in His love and invites to live His own life.