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.”
The great commandment! Love of God and love of neighbor. Everything depends on love. All we have to do is hear these words of our Lord to realize that love is at the basis of all of our life—if we want to follow Him.
We humans always find reasons and pretexts not to love one another. That seems to be part of our being. We don’t look for sin but we often avoid the good that we could do. This commandment of love is found also in the Old Testament, the Jewish Scriptures. Jesus makes it clearer to us.
In the Book of Exodus today, we hear some of the early formulations of how to love others and a practical description of the people who should beloved. Widows, orphans and poor people demand particular attention in terms of love. Today we would focus on those who are the outcasts of society: the abusers, the ugly people, those who have personality disorders, etc. Every age has people that it marginalizes.
The Gospel of Matthew today once again generalizes: love God and love your neighbor. We can recall the story of the Good Samaritan to remind us that our neighbor is everyone who is in need in any way. This is a call to universal love. It is not an invitation to try to figure out those whom we don’t have to love. Our Church is still struggling with how to love those who don’t follow the rules, how to love those who do not conform, how to love those who reject the teachings of our Church. This is all part of learning how to love.
Today the First Letter to the Thessalonians reminds us that our challenge is receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit. This tells us that it is not always easy to understand what it means to live, that sometimes trying to live will put us in great affliction and yet we will receive joy from the Holy Spirit as we struggle to be faithful to the Word.
In a family or in a religious community or in a parish community, it is not easy to love those who reject the way of life of the family, of the religious community or of the parish. Loving these people does not mean rejecting the way of life handed down to us in the Lord. It does mean seeking ways to love those who reject it. This is part of the ongoing challenge of following Jesus Christ.
Today, as we hear the Word of God once more, we can commit ourselves to loving others once more and to seeking active ways of love those who cannot follow the way of life that we have received from Jesus. May the Holy Spirit guide us!