Lanie LeBlanc OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
reflection can be here!)
Sun. 30 A
In this day and age where there are so many things that
you should and shouldn't do to stay alive, having just two
commandments in the Gospel on which to focus to stay
spiritually alive sounds so easy and refreshing! Even I can
do that. Wait a minute.... I need to look again, this time a
This response of Jesus to what is the greatest
commandment is simply stated, but definitely not simple to
do. There is no one thing to "satisfy" either of the things
he says. I think that is really the beauty of the dilemma
How many ways can you show that you love the Lord? It
would take multi-hours, multi-days, well, a lifetime, to
think about and put your answers and good intentions into
consistent practice. That is the point, I think.
The same is true of the second commandment. Our first
reading gives us a great head start on some possible
answers. Tuning in to any media news outlet about current
events can make that list very long indeed in a very sort
Reflect, start, reflect, adjust, repeat. This type of
pattern can become a life long habit resulting in a lifetime
of honoring God and following the path Jesus modeled. Will
you make the time to reflect? What will you do first? How
will what you do improve your life, both physical and
spiritual, and the life of others? To me, that seems to be
how best to honor the God who made us all, one little bit at
a time, consistently.
Thirtieth Sunday of Ordered Time October 25
Exodus 22:20-26; Responsorial Psalm 18; 1st
Thessalonians 1:5-10; Gospel Acclamation John 14:23; Matthew
In Matthew’s gospel, ever since Jesus made his triumphant
entry into the holy city, Jerusalem, he has been conflicted
with the powers that controlled the socio-economic system.
Just before the gospel selection for this Sunday, he had a
run in with the Sadducees. If we think this group was just
some difficult people from the past, we are going to be
mistaken. The Sadducees were the most conservative of the
groups in Judah. They held the money, they owned the land,
they controlled manufacturing, and were the banks and
lending agencies of the nation. It was in their best
interest that everything remained the same. They did not
want change as change would affect their wealth and their
power and their influence. Quite naturally, since they had
an expansive life with all the perks, they had little hope
in an afterlife. Heaven or paradise was something to keep
the lesser citizens happy and working in their system. They
held to the Law of Moses, strictly. They believed the law
could not and was not meant to develop to give wisdom to
current events. They were scriptural literalists. Tradition,
national experience, or even personal experience would give
a broader or more inclusive meaning to the words of Genesis,
Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy.
The gospel begins this week with the words, "When the
Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they
gathered together and one of them, a scholar of the law,
tested him…" If it seems the organized groups of Jews were
out to get Jesus, we would be right. The Sadducees, the
Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Priests wanted no more than
to prove that Jesus was not the Messiah, was clearly not a
holy person, and was not schooled in the Law of Moses. The
Sadducees had tried to take Jesus down by asking him to
prove from the Law of Moses in the five books of the Law
that there was eternal life. Eternal Life was a continuing
theme of Jesus’ preaching. The Sadducees believed the Law of
Moses said nothing about it. Jesus proved them wrong. They
walked away, defeated, failed in their effort to prove Jesus
violating the Law of Moses. The Sadducees were the wealthy
who focused on increasing their wealth and reducing their
obligations to community.
Now it was the Pharisees’ turn. The Pharisees studied the
five books of Moses and defined several hundred laws to
guide life. Compliance was their focus. They used the law to
criticize, to condemn, to separate sheep from goats, and to
elevate themselves with pride. Surely Jesus would miss one
or another and they could point that out and use it to
condemn Jesus and his teachings. Again, as with the
Sadducees, their mindset prevented them from understanding
the presence of God was active forming a community of
persons, all equal. The Pharisees were the "law and order"
group of Israel.
The priests were another grouping. They were the
ordained, the ones set apart. In being set apart they were
special, not like the ordinary folks of the street. They
claimed to be closest to God; they presided over worship.
They blessed and cursed. It was in their best interest to
avoid appearing to be involved in politics. They worked
behind the scenes in collusion with the Roman occupiers.
They pedaled influence quietly. Their efforts were protected
from public criticism.
In this Sunday’s gospel selection, one of the Pharisees,
a guy who was recognized as an overachiever as regards the
law, thought to trap Jesus using the Law. He addresses Jesus
as "teacher." He gave Jesus a revered title the better to
make Jesus feel pride at the recognition and thus make him
more vulnerable. "Teacher, which commandment in the law is
the greatest?" No matter which prescription Jesus chose, he
would have overlooked others of equal importance. This would
give priests, Sadducees, and Pharisees cause to criticize
Jesus. The people would be confused and walk away from
Jesus. Jesus would just be another itinerant preacher
overwhelmed by their cleverness.
You will notice that the priests are not mentioned in
this gospel selection. It was beneath their status to engage
in street argument. They would hold their tongues until the
appropriate time and bring Jesus up on charges from both a
religious and a secular sense. Their argument would end
Jesus’ influence and hopefully his life at the hands of the
Jesus’ answer to the scholar of the Law reached into the
Books of Moses. The Jews even now Jews begin their worship
with the words of the Shema prayer. It begins, "Hear O
Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is One." Then Jesus
answers. "You shall love the Lord, your God." There could be
no contesting his response. This is the first prayer every
Jewish child would remember. It meant that to God we owe a
love that is total, that dominates our emotions, that
directs our thoughts, that is the energy for all our
actions. Every other prescript, every other regulation,
every other law comes from this love of God. And from this
love of God comes the love of our neighbor that is equal to
and surpasses our love of self.
This prayer is ancient and derives from the experiences
of the Hebrew people. It drove the people to excel in faith.
In the renewal of faith during the Babylonian captivity,
this prayer found new meaning. Jesus continues: "This is the
greatest and 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."
There we have it! In this short teaching of Jesus,
derived from the Hebrew Scriptures, we have the message of
the Messiah, of the Son of God. How well do we apply this
message? To Love God, we must experience God. For 99.999
percent of us this has nothing to do with visions or
apparitions. Most of us are not knocked off our high-horse
--- well maybe that is not true. Unlike Paul who it is said
was knocked off his horse as he rode to ancient Damascus to
persecute the followers of Jesus, we get knocked off our
high horse by the events of our living. Perhaps it is
illness, perhaps it is loss of wealth, perhaps it is the
insidious gossip that robs us of standing in the community.
Perhaps it is loss of a job or contentions within family or
community. In any case we are all robbed of pride by what
happens to us. Only the very wealthy – the Sadducees among
us – are insulated from such events and thus never come to
love God. Perhaps we are so strongly opinionated that there
is nothing that can persuade us of the truth. When the
falsehoods we cling to bear bitter fruit, we too are brought
down, knocked from the high horse of empty alliances to come
to hear, "Hear O Israel; The Lord our God; The Lord is One."
With that we shed pretentions, we surrender our pride, we
see others and know compassion and mercy. That is how God
watches over us – compassion, mercy, and unconditional love.
We create many classifications of people that have
nothing to do with race, national origin, language, faith
tradition, gender, or other categories we delight in. There
are the fundamentalists, the literalists who cling to
formulas that endorse their lifestyles and efforts. The
Pharisees among us find comfort in knowing they are right.
In their righteousness, they ignore these two great
commandments. There are those who look down on others from
the great height of their titles.
There are those satisfied with their lot in life. They
gain wealth and prestige on the backs of lesser folk. And
while they complain mightily about those dependent on
welfare, those who live by entitlements, those who are a
blight on society – yet it is on the backs of these lowly
that wealth is amassed. It is no wonder that Jesus talks
about the wealthy entering eternal life with the ease of a
camel passing through the eye of a needle. They are too
insulated from the vagaries of life to be affected by life
changing misfortune. These are the Sadducees of our time.
There are those who ride the waves above all else because
of their positions. They insulate themselves in their pride
of knowledge, of skill, of alliances, or of power. Their use
of power lacks compassion and mercy. Their use of power
ignores the human condition and passes judgment without
heart. These are the Chief Priests.
These three groups will not understand Jesus’ explanation
of the greatest commandments. These three groups will not
heed the word of Exodus today. "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."
We are in the final stages of a general election. We can
hardly consider ourselves Christians if we fail to apply
these two great commandments to our discernment. Political
strategists will pick and choose issues to reach the
emotions and thus cloud voter judgment. Discernment is
difficult and must be divorced from the rantings of
political discourse. In the end, the decision must be based
on God’s love for us – for all of us. Not only the citizen,
but also the immigrant fleeing intolerable conditions. It
must consider the poor, the uneducated, the persons without
access to basic health care. It must consider not only the
unborn but also the infants, the toddlers who need basic
life sustaining materials. It must consider responses to
pandemics, to taxation, to international relationships, to
efforts to secure peaceful trade and relationships with the
world’s nations. It is not an easy answer as so many would
tell us it is. It seems there is no perfect candidate. But
it is essential that Christians discern, study the issues
without partisan allegiances and choose under the guidance
of the Spirit of God made known through the miracles of
Jesus and his preaching and his love demonstrated on the
cross. That Jesus’ work and life was approved by God is
proven by the emptiness of the Tomb on Easter and his
walking, eating, and teaching the disciples after that
awesome event. His miracles sought to bring people into
community, to return them to full participation in life.
Whoever divides this community does not love God nor love
For there are two great commandments: "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." So says our Lord, Jesus who is
LOVING GOD IN LOVING NEIGHBOUR: 30TH SUNDAY A
- In raising their children to be good people, how might
parents fail to be truly loving and caring?
- What kind of treatment tends to lead children to
resentment, rebellion, and alienation from their parents?
- What most contributes to good, happy and harmonious
relationships with others?
- In the teaching of Jesus about love, what was new and
- From his parable of the Good Samaritan, who is the
neighbour that Jesus calls us to love. Give some examples.
- What helps has God provided, to enable us to be more
loving persons than we are already?
A mother in a country town a long way from here became
very concerned about the children she saw in the streets of
her town. She was convinced that they were wild, unruly and
disrespectful. She called them ‘ferals ‘, and to anyone who
would listen she would say: ‘Parents no longer teach their
children to be obedient.’ She made up her mind that this
would never happen in her family. So, she insisted on total
and absolute obedience. Either her children did exactly what
she told them to do, or they were punished very severely.
For disobeying any of her orders or breaking any of her
rules, she stopped them going out to play or going to their
friends’ homes, sent them to bed without a meal, gave them
no pocket money, stopped them from getting or giving
Christmas presents, cancelled their birthday parties,
refused to let them get a driver’s licence when they were
old enough, and stopped them going to university. She was a
Her campaign was very successful. Her children were very
obedient and respectful. On the outside, that is. On the
inside, they were seething. Finally, when they were older,
every one of them moved away from their mother as far as
possible. As things turned out, they were all very
successful in their careers. One day the mother got on the
phone to her youngest daughter and complained: ‘Why don’t
any of you love me? Didn’t I teach you the discipline you
needed to succeed in your work?’ ‘Yeah,’ said the young
woman, ‘but you never loved us.’
That mother goes to church every Sunday. Every Sunday she
receives the risen Jesus in the consecrated bread and wine.
Every Sunday she hears the teaching of Jesus. But she
completely misses the point of his teaching. His teaching
that the most important thing in life is having good, happy,
harmonious and peaceful relationships, relationships of
love! Having love for God and love for fellow human beings
as the two hinges on the door to life!
The need and the requirement to both love God and care
for others as much as I care for myself, were already well
known in the Jewish community of Jesus. What is new and
original with him is his insistence that you cannot have one
without the other. What is new and original with him is that
the proof, the test, of our love for God is our love for
others. What is also new and fresh about the teaching of
Jesus is that obeying any of the laws of God has to be done
with love. Love must be the energy that empowers all our
efforts to be good people and all our efforts to do good
In the teaching of Jesus too, love for neighbour includes
every other human being without exception. Wasn’t his answer
to the question put to him ‘who is my neighbour?’, to tell
his famous story of the Good Samaritan. And isn’t the point
of that story that the neighbour God calls me to love is
always the person who needs me here and now? For example,
the man up the street who has just lost his wife to cancer;
the woman over the road who is old and bedridden but has no
family to visit her; the asylum seeker languishing in
detention in Maribyrnong Australia or in a cage on the
US-Mexican border, with no-one to support his claims for a
safe home and a new life for his family; the
drought-stricken farmer watching his sheep die one by one,
his breeding-stock among them.
Of course, we couldn’t possibly be ready to love all
other persons, were it not for the example of Jesus himself,
and for the gift of his Spirit, the Holy Spirit of love.
Without Jesus and the Spirit, we couldn’t possibly forgive
those who have hurt and harmed us. Without Jesus and the
Spirit, we couldn’t possibly reach out to someone we don’t
like, or to someone who is not part of our comfort zone of
family and friends. But with Jesus and his Spirit, we can do
good and great things for others, even for complete
strangers we have never met before. This is just what was
happening during the nightmare of the two Bali bombings that
happened over eighteen years ago this month. It brought out
the best in those generous people – quite a few - who cared
more for the safety of other victims than they cared for
For that gift of love – generous, unselfish, and
wholehearted love for God, and generous, unselfish, and
wholehearted love for neighbour - let us come to the Lord
today! Let us also pray to the Lord during the rest of our
prayer today, prayed alone or with others, that every person
we know, will bit by bit become a more loving, a more
caring, and a more generous person!
Gleeson CP" <email@example.com>
Year A: 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
"You must love the Lord your God with all your
heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. And you
must love your neighbour as yourself."
"Love your neighbour as yourself?"
Why your neighbour?
Why not the people down the road?
or people in the next town?
Or some other people a nice safe distance away..?
Or the man in the moon?
Why your neighbour?
Well, I think we all know why
Liverpool versus Everton
Arsenal versus Tottenham
Celtic versus Rangers
Manchester United versus Manchester City.
Chelsea versus Fulham
Millwall versus - well, just about anybody really.
Neighbours are often the hardest people to love.
And so, when I hear these words of Jesus "Love your
neighbour as yourself", I think of the worst day in British
football in my lifetime.
- worse -far worse - than losing on penalties in the
world cup quarter finals.
You are all too young to remember it - but your parents
will. It was the 15th April 1989.
It was Hillsborough.
What happened at Hillsborough was that there were too
many people in one place at one time.
They got crushed together - so crushed that 96 people
were crushed to death.
Half of them were teenagers.
The oldest of them was 67.
The youngest was just 10.
It was a terrible, terrible accident.
People argue to this day about just whose fault it was.
But at the time, people weren’t arguing about that. We
were all just numb with the grief of so many young deaths.
One week after the accident, there was a memorial service
for the dead at Anfield. You can still see the pictures of
it on the internet. And when you look at those pictures, the
first thing you notice is that the entire pitch is covered
with flowers, football scarves and football shirts.
But if you look more closely, the second thing you notice
is that about half of the flowers are red, but half of them
are blue. The blue ones are from Everton. That day they made
a rope out of Liverpool and Everton football scarves that
stretched all the way from Goodison to Anfield. The entire
city of Liverpool was united in its grief.
And if you look still more closely, you will see that
some of the blue scarves and shirts are from Manchester City
and some of the red ones are from Manchester United.
An entire nation was united in our club’s grief.
I’ll tell you a secret: since that day I have still
always loved it when we win, but I can now bear it when we
lose - even, as we did recently, to Manchester United -
because I know that we have not lost to an enemy, but to a
Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our
soul, with all our strength means recognizing the presence
and goodness of God in the other people God has created and
placed alongside ourselves in His World.
Loving your neighbour as yourself means that no matter
what divides us, there is something more - much more - which
As Christians, we call that the Presence of God.
I never thought I would say this – and certainly never in
public – but I love Manchester United as I love my own team.
God Bless Football!
And God bless us all.
O’Reilly, SJ <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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