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Reflection On The Sunday Gospel By Fr. Isidore Clarke, OP

Reflection On The Sunday Gospel By Fr. Isidore Clarke, OP

Greeting from Fr. Isidore Clarke.Today I'm going to reflect on the Gospel for 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Matt. 22. 34-40.

Here's a challenge for you!Imagine someone asked you, as a Christian, which was the most important commandment.He could be a genuine inquirer, wanting to discover what you thought was at the heart of following Christ. Or he could be setting a trap to discover whether you really understood what being a Christian was all about.

In today's Gospel the lawyer was trying to catch Jesus out. He's like the Council for the Prosecution, trying to trip up the defendant.He hoped that Jesus' reply would reveal that, He who dared to presume the right to teach God's will for us, didn't understand and accept the Law God had given to Moses. Jesus' enemies hoped to expose His ignorance, discredit Him and once and for all put an end to His mission.

To understand the trap set for Jesus we have to realise that there are 613 Jewish laws. The Jewish religious leaders spend much time and energy debating among themselves about which was the most important of this mountain of laws.

We Christians have many more laws than that; we also have heated debates about laws which touch people's daily, personal lives. As a matter of pastoral care we argue about which law should take priority. Such debates are vital in helping us to discover God's will for us. In fact, in Mark's Gospel a Pharisee poses the same question in a friendly way and concludes by congratulating Jesus on His reply.But here, in Matthew's Gospel, the questioner is hostile.

Jesus replies by combining two quotations from the Law of Moses, which no Jew could dispute.Firstly, He tells us that the most important law is for us to love God with the total commitment of our whole being, (Duet. 6.5)Every Jew must recite that law at the beginning of each day.But Jesus doesn't stop there.Instead, He links to that a second commandment -we must love our neighbour as ourselves, (Lev. 19. 18).This addition is of vital importance to our understanding what it means to love God.We, who have been made in God's image, must be like Him in loving those whom He loves.For Jesus, and therefore for us, loving God and loving our neighbour are inseparable.

So, whom should we love, and how should we love them?Jesus doesn't answer that question here. Instead, that's a central theme of all the Gospels.As to the question as to who is the neighbour whom we must love, Jesus tells us, in the Sermon on the Mount, that we must forgive our enemies and do good to those who harm us.

In Luke's Gospel, in the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus refuses to define who is our neighbour.Instead, He tells us we must be neighbourly to anyone in need.We must give that person the assistance we would require if we were in the same situation.Later in Matthew's Gospel Jesus, identifies with those in need to such an extent that He says that in helping or neglecting them we assist or ignore Him.He will treat us in the same way as we've treated them.

But Jesus didn't just tell us how to love; His whole life, and especially His death, witnessed to the kind of love He expected of us.In John's Gospel (Ch.15) He says, 'Love one another as I have loved you.' And strikingly just before this He had told them, ' I have loved you just as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love,'

Throughout the Gospels we see His care and compassion for those in any kind of need. He reaches out to the marginalised and forgives the repentant sinner.Above all, on the cross, Jesus shows the depth of His love for His heavenly Father and for us sinners.His death healed the rift between God and man, and united us in love.

A final thought.Any rabbi, being asked to recite the whole Law while standing on one leg, could have simply quoted Jesus who said that that the commandment to love fulfils the whole Law and the prophets. Then the rabbi could justly have added, "The rest is commentary!"

God bless you all!

Message From Most Rev. Dr. Charles Jason Gordon
A Sunday Reflection By Fr. Michael Barrow, SJ