30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A.
Exodus 22:20-26 – 1Thessalonians 1:5-10 – Matthew 22:34-40.
In a town far away, a seven year-old boy lived with his wealthy grandfather. His grandfather was the owner of a factory with a large workforce. Towards his employees, the man was overbearing, mean and a bully, but whenever the little boy was around in the factory, he put on an act of being courteous to them. The little boy idolized his grandfather because he witnessed him being kind and generous to everyone around him. He would often tell his grandfather how much he loved him and admired him. “Grandpa,” he used to say, “I bet people love you nearly as much as I do!” The more he said this to his grandfather, the more those words began to sink in, to effect a change in the old man and soften his heart. It stuck the man how much his heart lifted when he heard the little boy tell him he loved him, and the drip-drip-drip effect of the boy’s affectionate words made him want to become the kind of person his grandson believed him to be. Grandpa gave up putting on an act for the benefit of his grandson, and made a purposeful change to his behaviour and attitude towards his employees. He replaced the bullying with demonstrations of genuine respect and love for other people, because he wanted everyone to respond to him and love him in the same way as his grandson did.
In today’s gospel, Jesus tells us that the two greatest Commandments of God are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Love is the common factor. Jesus gives us to understand that it is on love that everything concerning the Law and the Prophets rests. The story about the grandfather leads us to understand that Love is neither something beautiful for academics to dissect, nor a social courtesy, nor for show (which is what the wealthy man was initially guilty of doing only when his grandson was with him) but rather that Love is a way of life (Ps 143:8). Love is the life of God Himself; He has taught us that He is Love (1Jn 4:16) so that we may understand Him through living out our own life in love (1Cor 16:14). When we reach the point where we are able to live out the life of love, from there on in we will be able to understand how God is, and how He reacts towards us and our behaviour (1Pet 4:8).
In the first reading, God ordered the people of Israel to live out the life of love authentically by behaving well towards other people. God urged His people to reach out in love to those around them, so that other people would also experience the love of God, and through it understand that He is the God of love, mercy, justice and peace. He looks after all His children, especially the oppressed, the lowly, the unloved, widows and orphans, the poor and underprivileged, strangers and those who are not of our own kith and kin. Because it is always easier to do good to the few close to us than to many outsiders, He decreed that His Chosen People should reach out in love to everyone.
Actually, this teaching shows us how to be holy… how to be God’s hands on earth (Heb 13:21). In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve were tempted to become ‘like God’ (Gen 3:5) in order to challenge the authority of God. Here, however, God tells us how to be ‘like God’ in a good sense, through the duty to love. Since God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son (Jn 3:16), it follows that love is holy. Those who follow the loving God and live in love, find themselves made a new creation in Christ (2Cor 5:17) and do His will. Love as a way of life has to be genuine and flow from within rather than be faked for outward show. In living out our life from day to day, we are not acting out parts on a stage or characters in a TV drama; we are real and fully alive and we have to make each and every day count through the authentic practise of love, kindness, mercy and generosity which God teaches us about in His word today.
In the 2nd reading, St Paul reminded the Thessalonians about what they had observed in the lives of those who were practising ‘The Way’ (as early Christianity was called), which made them want to follow the same path and become like them. ‘The Way’ is a life of love whose impact is so powerful that it can change people’s lives without external compulsion; true believers and followers then and now are not dissuaded from ‘imitating’ the life of the Lord (1Thess 1:6). The life of love is Godly and heavenly. Christians then and now have no need to use force to make disciples of the nations, because what warms the heart and attracts people to the life of love is exemplary goodness, kindness, generosity, meekness, joy, patience and peace in the Holy Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22f).
Remember that the world today needs Christians to stand up and speak up for the cause of right, for the causes of justice and peace, for the care for the weak, the underprivileged, the poor and for so many others who are in need of our duty of love. It is time to set an example for the age in which we live, as did the early Christians in their time. It is time to love truly and authentically, quietly without dramatic show, and to live out the rest of our lives in contributing towards improving the lot of humanity for God’s sake. Love has the power to bring about ‘The Way’ of dignity for every individual in the world. Let us continue to love generously. Amen. God bless you.