30th Sunday of Ordinary Time A
October 22, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
During Jesus life time people were aware of 613 prohibitions and prescriptions of the law. Seems it was common to discuss these 613. But Matthew tells us that one of the pharisees, a scholar of the law, poses his question to “test” Jesus. The question is asked not for information but out of hostility. Last Sunday we heard that they wanted to “entrap” him.
Perhaps for me the first lesson is to learn how Jesus responds to hostility. He seems to ignore the hostility and simply respond to the question. This is no easy success. Can I do the same?
Secondly we must look at Jesus response. The first part is: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
Love God, what does it mean? The first letter of John gives a basic premise. 1 Jn. 4:10 “This is what love is, it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent His Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven.” Nine verses later John’s letter adds, “We love because God first loved us.”
The noted biblical scholar, John Donahue, S.J., says clearly: “Biblical love of God is gratitude and remembrance for what God has done, rather than a project of what we do for God.” John P. Meier in his commentary on this passage states: “Love of God entails one’s whole being; heart (center of knowing and willing as well as feeling), mind and soul (one’s whole life and energies). Love is not so much a matter of feeling as a matter of doing.”
The second part of Jesus response is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Dianne Bergant tells us: “That he knew the Law was not remarkable. What was astounding was the way he linked these two prescriptions. He placed love of neighbor alongside love of God. In fact, he insisted that ‘the whole Law and the prophets (the entire religious tradition) depend on these two commandments.” She also reminds us: “Jesus will ultimately expand the meaning of the term (neighbor) to include those outside the community as well.” Luke’s Gospel follows the scene of this test of Jesus by the story of the Good Samaritan. In Matthew’s sermon on the mount Jesus includes even our enemies among the neighbors we must love.
“AS YOURSELF.” I believe it was Eckhardt Tolle who quipped something to this effect: “For some people that’s no great gift.” His words alert us to the fact that people have difficulty loving themselves.
It is clear that many people lack self esteem. One analysis of this fact attributes it to the following: 1) early life experience of non-affirmation (parents overly permissive, exaggerated punitive attitude, overly critical, sexual abuse, alcohol abuse, divorce); 2) being taught that emotions are bad, anger and sadness; 3) the conflict between the ideal self (formed by musts and shoulds) and the real self.
Rather than good self love we have many people who have self hate. They constantly engage in self defeating behaviors, avoidance, repression, denial, bargaining, passing the buck, blaming the past behaviors. We can become self serving, selfish (reflected in attitudes such as: “I must fulfill all my desires”, “the world owes me”, “anyone who gets in my way, I will run over”.)
We can end up with two extreme views of self. I am worthless or I am God’s gift to the universe.
The first letter of John presents us with these sobering thoughts (stated in non inclusive language): 1 Jn 4:19 “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar. For he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen. This is the command that Christ gave us: he who loves God must love his brother also.” We too easily can live with this contradiction, seeing ourselves as loving God but mistreating our brothers and sisters and neighbors and outsiders.
Whatever problems we have with self esteem we must overcome them. I must reach a point when I stop blaming the past and others, stop passing the buck and take responsibility for my actions. I must love my neighbor (outsiders and enemies included) and thus fulfill the commands of Jesus to love God and neighbor as self.
The GOOD NEWS. The obstacles to loving self, thus to loving neighbor, thus to loving God can be overcome with the Love of God for us. God first loved us. God also can heal us through the love of others. The person who looks at and loves you is able to see the gifts that you have in a way that you don’t even know. Place ourselves and our obstacles and our self defeating behaviors before God.
From Roger Karban
I remember a workshop exercise in which we were asked to list 10 things we considered priorities in our lives. Then, on the other side of the paper, we were to write the date of the last time we actually did one of those things. It was a revelation. Thinking about something isn’t close to doing something about it. Rarely do we live our priorities.