October 26, 2014 – Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That is a relatively comprehensive statement on what each of us must do before we do anything else. It is called by many the prime commandment. This is a commandment which the Lord wants us to make genuine and true in relationship to how we live. Through stewardship our concentration needs to always be on God and what that means.
The readings on this Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time refer to conversion, commitment, and service, all key elements of what we know as stewardship. The first reading from Exodus speaks of how we should treat others, just as the Gospel of Matthew does. We are called to regard with great compassion those who might be perceived as poor or weak. Scripture often makes reference to how we treat widows and orphans. However, even before the admonition as to how we treat those vulnerable people, we are asked to consider how we treat “strangers.” Scripture uses the word “aliens,” but it is really calling us to consider how we approach and behave toward those new or different among us, strangers and visitors. Hospitality is one of the pillars of good stewardship, and our attitude toward these “strangers” is indicative of our outlook and of what Jesus calls our love of our neighbors.
There is a popular hymn in which the refrain is “The Lord Hears the Cry of the Poor.” That is what this first reading is all about. God has a particular love and care for the poor. We must not forget that in many ways Jesus and His family were poor, according to the standards of that time. When they visit the Temple for Jesus’ dedication, their offering is two birds, which was considered the offering of a poor family (Luke 2:24).
St. Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians makes reference to the power of conversion. Paul refers to the strength of the Word, making it clear that it should not be just words to us, but something much deeper, something which brings us to conversion, just as it did with the Thessalonians. Paul explains to the Thessalonians that they are “examples.” Each of us is called to be an example as well. Paul was an example to those in Thessalonica; they in turn were an example to the people of Macedonia and Achaia. Jesus calls each of us to be examples to others, examples of love and stewardship. This is the ultimate form of evangelization.
The two great commandments expounded by Jesus in the Gospel might be considered as the foundational pieces of advice to us as to how we can best be Christians and live Christian lives. Loving God is very straightforward, but it is not easy. Loving our neighbor means much more than having regard for those who live next door or in our area. Jesus felt that everyone, absolutely everyone throughout the world, was truly our neighbor. The Lord correctly understood that being somewhat selfish and self-centered and seeing the world only on a local level was a natural state for many of us. Jesus, as well as the concept of stewardship, calls us to a higher plane, a more advanced perception of life and living. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, to be His follower, we must humbly place others in preference to our own interests. On paper, it may seem simple, but we know it is much more complex and difficult: all we have to do is love God and love all others. That is what we must do.