Homily for the thirtieth Sunday of the year

Year A  -  Mt. 22:34-40


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him.  «Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?»  And he said to him, «You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Deut. 6:5). This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18).  On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.»"



Homily :


"When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him.  «Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?»"

In this Sunday's gospel, we see Jesus faced with Jews who wanted to test him.  These Jews are lawyers and they want to attack the Lord in their own domain:  the law!  How many times had Jesus been seen violating - legitimately - the law of the Sabbath?  How many times had the Jews reproached Jesus for not conforming to the customs and religious traditions of his time?  All this could only exasperate these men, who claimed to follow the Law of God perfectly.  So, once more, they questioned Jesus about the Law, no longer by reproaching him, but rather by trying to lure him into a discussion in their own field of expertise.  "And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him.  «Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?»"

"And he said to him, «You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Deut. 6:5). This is the great and first commandment.»"

Jesus, animated by the Holy Spirit, who rested upon him, did not allow himself to be led into the lawyers' trap.  So he replied, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind (Deut. 6:5). This is the great and first commandment."  Jesus immediately escaped from his adversaries and turned the tables on them.  For he goes from simple law, the law that has neither heart nor soul, to the Law of Love, the Law that rules over everything since it comes from the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Love, the Spirit who is the total gift of self at the heart of the Divine Trinity!

"«And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18).»"

The Law of the Love of God does not limit itself to the act of loving God ; for God, in creating man, has left on all creation a mark and imprint of everything that he himself is.  God, in effect, created man in his image and in his likeness (cf. Gn. 1:26-27).  Consequently, if we love God, we must also love man, who resembles God, his Creator and Master.  So, Jesus adds, "And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18)."

Without doubt, all of this is beyond us.  How can we love our neighbor, the man or woman we see passing by, as if he or she were God himself?  Certainly, this truth is beyond anything we could understand through human reason, for it is a true mystery, the very Mystery of the Church:  that Body of Christ of which Saint Paul speaks on various occasions ; that extension, or that continuation, of the Christ who died and rose again.

By speaking of the Love of God and neighbor, Jesus gains victory over his adversaries, for he does not place himself beyond the law, but rather above the law, in the domain of Mystery and faith.  Moreover, Jesus lays bare the entire enigma of the Church in this confrontation with the lawyers.  For the Church appears to us first as a social body composed of men and women of all languages and all nations.  The Church appears at first glance to be regulated by laws similar to the laws of a government or an organization.  But she is also, and principally, governed by the Law of the Spirit of God, the Law of Love that inspires all true believers to live in accordance with the divine will.

"«On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.»"

Jesus concludes his response to the lawyers by mentioning those who had preceded him in his mission:  the Prophets!  And it is right for the Lord to speak of them.  For it was the prophets who had given to the People of God the true law, which must be followed, day after day, until the coming of the Messiah.  The prophets were able to hear what the Spirit of God told them, and they passed on this teaching to the people, in order that those whom God had created in his image and likeness might truly be icons of He who would come:  the Savior of the human race, Jesus of Nazareth!

May Mary, completely pure, immaculate, the perfect image of God, help us to love God, and our neighbor as ourselves!  Through her, the mediatrix of all graces, may Jesus come to live in us through the sacrament of his Eucharist, in order that the perfect unity of all creation, renewed in the Spirit, might be realized!