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
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two
(from Mt 22:34-40)
Pondering the Word …
I mentioned a few weeks ago I am
reading a book entitled, Go into the Streets, the Welcoming
Church of Pope Francis, a compilation of essays that delve into
Francis’ theology. When I read today’s gospel, a brief statement
from the introduction of the book popped into my head: “Part of
(Francis’) concern is to avoid the temptation to intellectualize
one’s faith, concentrating ‘only on ideas and formulations that do
not result in a commitment of one’s life.’….What he wants is a
concrete theological language that brings others to the gospel and
to Christ.” In other words, Francis wants to keep it simple.
I’d say Jesus is of the same
mindset. At this point in his ministry, the higher ups are keeping a
pretty close watch on him, and as we see today, they try to test
him. His answer is concrete and to the point. No intellectualizing
or complex language. And not one of those testing him could argue
with his answer.
Most of us like to have the rules
spelled out, with all the nitty-gritty details. It gives us the
illusion of control. But long lists of laws and rules can cause us
to miss the whole point of our relationship with God and with
others, captured in one simple, concrete word: Love.
Living the Word…
One definition of theology is the
study of the nature of God and religious beliefs. I have lots of
books written by highly educated theologians. Some are way beyond
me, but others seem to be able to take these complex, nuanced
subjects and explain them through the use of comparisons, stories,
and parables, much like what Jesus did when he taught the crowds.
If you were asked to define your
theology in concrete language—language you could use to bring others
to the gospel and to Christ, what would your answer be? Of course,
we know our actions speak much louder than our words, but still,
this makes for an interesting prayer exercise. If you don’t know
where to begin, think about your favorite image of or story about
Christ: the caring and compassionate Good Shepherd; the unafraid,
outspoken critic of hypocrisy; the teacher; the healer; the one who
empowers others (that’s my favorite). Then you might want to think
about whether this favorite image really reflects your view of God
and is the basis for your religious beliefs. If Christ is to be my
model, then how does my life measure up? (Don’t be too tough on
yourself. It’s not a judgment exercise, but a way to build
“The leader of the synagogue, indignant that Jesus had cured on the
Sabbath, said to the crowd, "There are six days when work should be
done. Come on those days to be cured, not on the Sabbath day." (Lk
Have you ever
been in a situation like this? It happens in organizations with lots of
rules and regulations. Someone does or says something so utterly absurd
that you find yourself looking around to see if you are the only one
aware of the total nonsense being presented. (I’m feeling that way these
days given what’s happening in my country!) It takes courage to be like
Jesus, to point out the hypocrisy and blindness of those so locked into
processes and rules that even logic, much less compassion, doesn’t stand
a chance. So pray for the courage to take a stand for compassion, for
kindness, for common sense. We need courageous people more than ever.
creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of
God…in hopes that creation itself would be set free from slavery to
corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.”(Rom
I’d say Mother Earth is waiting eagerly…anxiously…for the children of
God to wake up and free themselves and creation from the slavery of
corruption. What would it be like if we could begin to reveal ourselves
as God’s children right now by caring for the earth, renewing and
replenishing her resources for future generations of God’s children?
Have we ever considered that our own salvation—not just our human
survival--is tied to the salvation of all of the God’s creation? Worth
some serious thought, don’t you think?
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
(Mt 5: 1-12)
no adjective before the word “peacemakers.” Jesus didn’t say Jewish
peacemakers or Samaritan peacemakers. He didn’t exclude Roman or Greek
peacemakers. Anyone…anyone who works to bring peace is a child of God.
Pope Francis is reaching out to people of all faiths, and to all people
of goodwill to work for peace. He reminds us we are all
saints-in-the-making, children of God. How will you be a peacemaker
“Brothers and sisters: Hope does not disappoint, because the love of
God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has
been given to us.” (Rom 5:5-11)
Hope is an
attitude for living, not a wish for something specific. Ideally, our
hope is in God’s providence, and that we are strong and wise enough to
accept God’s will. This is not to say we don’t bring our petitions to
God in prayer—God does hear us and is there beside us when our hope and
faith falters. “Prayer doesn’t change God. It changes the one who
prays.” (Kierkegaard) If you are struggling and low on hope, pray.
Be open and allow the living presence of Jesus to settle deep in your
“I have great sorrow and constant anguish in my heart. For I could wish
that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my
own people, my kindred according to the flesh.”
Paul can get a
bit dramatic at times. Though his letters were likely written in Greek,
he spoke Hebrew, a language known for its exaggeration and hyperbole.
Jesus does the same thing in some of his teachings (e.g., hate your
mother and father, pluck out your eye, etc.). Maybe Paul does have an
intense maternal instinct for his Jewish brothers and sisters, in
wishing Christ’s salvation for them at the expense of his own, but he
also knows that’s not how it works. All we can do as parents, as
spiritual companions, as friends, is to let others see the joy and hope
that faith brings to our lives, and pray that the Spirit will open our
loved ones’ hearts.
Jesus went to dine at the home
of one of the Pharisees; the people were observing him carefully.
When you hear
that people are observing someone carefully, what comes to mind? I tend
to imagine the worse. The observers are waiting to see if the “observee”
makes a wrong move, slips up, or says something wrong or even heretical.
That’s the impression we get from Luke’s Gospel, but maybe there are
some at the Pharisee’s home who are withholding judgment. Could it be
that the Spirit has opened the minds and hearts of some of the guests,
and they are observing Jesus, not to catch or trap him, but to learn
from him? Do I take the time to observe Jesus carefully, to learn and to
model my own life after his? Make a commitment over the next week or so
to observe Jesus closely. Dig into the gospels each day like you are
reading the stories for the very first time. What do you observe about
Jesus? Jot down a few notes as basis for your prayer.