Today, on this Last Sunday after Trinity, the lectionary gives us the most important principle: loving God involves deeds rather than words. We need to do practical justice in the world. But a quick view into the world shows us that is not the case. Even in the Christian world we see a lack of respect and a lack of love. And when we take a stand we are often approached aggressively and vile, even by our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. Our Lord shows love of God and genuine love of the other are the two basic aspects of the same call. There is no contradiction between the two: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
The scripture readings that come to us the last weeks are very fitting in election season . It shows us the different Religious groups in Jesus time, with their 'political' motives. That is oppose Jesus in a very aggressive and vile way, something we see back in modern day politics. Last week we had the Sadducees and this week it are the Pharisees that try to test Jesus...and so hope for his down fall. When we are honest we know that the political arena is contrary on the Gospel: Greed, desire for power, untruths, playing games. We might be closer to the paganism as St. Paul mentions in his readings. Today’s world is hostile to the bone to all that Jesus represents.
Jesus was not a politician as we can clearly hear today. He tells it like it is, something to politicians are often afraid off. They rather twist and turn or not answer at all. Not so with Jesus. If they thought that Jesus would be the same, they have something coming. Jesus has no trouble with giving straight forward answers. Even if that would bring him in trouble…he simple does not mind. It is so refreshing to hear Jesus being totally straightforward with the Pharisees. They want to test him, to trick him if they can.
“Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” This is the most discussed question, endlessly debated among the theological schools at that time. Heated discussions about the subject. It seems almost like politics. And as my mentor in theology liked to say: “2 Jews, 3 opinions”. Jesus quotes the answer from Deuteronomy 6: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the great commandment. The words are prefaced by: “Hear O Israel!” This is in Judaism called the “Shema”, the Hebrew word for “Hear!” And as you all know we recite these words at the beginning of Mass, every time again.
Jews today still quote these words today. Even when they go to visit the gas chambers of Auschwitz, they have these words on their lips. They often stand silently and then for a long time and then sing: “Hear O Israel, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus honors this great commandment by quoting it. So, we can take it as our great commandment also. We are called to love God and neighbor. But though he has answered the lawyer, Jesus does not leave it there. He then quotes another commandment from Leviticus 19. We heard it today in our first reading: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself “. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” says Jesus. The quotes are well known but now Jesus merges them together. You shall love the Lord your God; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. If we reflect on the second commandment, we need to understand that it has everything to do how we love ourselves. Loving the other as oneself only becomes possible if we have, or can grow into, a healthy, sane level of self-appreciation.
Today’s readings invite us to reflect on how well we receive strangers, make them feel at home in our society and in our church. “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” They are distinct from us, and, often, different from us. Yet, the Lord gathered about himself a community of great diversity. Even within the twelve there was to be found a tax-collector and a zealot. Two men on the other side of the political spectrum. We pray for a greater openness to the many ways the Lord comes to us in life. No one could disagree with the ideal of loving God and loving one’s neighbor. But it is possible to politely listen and agree, without feeling called to a practical implementation in life. Paul mixed closely with the communities whose lives he shared. His attitudes and work-habits were in tune with the message that he delivered. The people of Thessalonika accepted his message and found that it had a power to change their own outlook on life.
Genuine human concern that touches lives is an effective sacrament of the transcendent love of God. A truly Christian life is rooted in the earth and yet reaches up to the mystery of God in a life of love. People can be quick to condemn those who have offbeat values or live a different lifestyle. We can fail to appreciate the faltering efforts others make to cope with the struggles of frail human nature. If we could be more empathetic and integrate it in our own approach towards others, we might be able to connect better with others. The gift of our humanity could become a reflection to the mystery of God for ourselves. Amen.