October 29, 2017 — Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
We might summarize the readings for this 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time by merely stating that as Christians we are to show compassion to one another and to love one another. Of course, that is a relatively accurate summary of everything we are called to do as Christians.
A wise philosopher once stated, “People do not care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” That could certainly apply to Jesus and what He calls us to do and how He calls us to live. In some ways, Jesus was as forceful and demanding a teacher Who ever lived. He has taught us that we must give total loyalty to Him and that we must be willing to “bear His cross.” Yet, in spite of these demands, He is at the center of our faith, of course.
Our First Reading comes to us from the Book of Exodus in the Old Testament. God is speaking to us, and He says, “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” We need to appreciate that the word translated as “alien” could also be translated as “stranger.” We could easily measure our own moral character in how we treat “strangers.” It is easy for us to treat those with whom we are familiar well, but God commands us to have a concern for others also, including the total stranger, or someone whom we feel is very different from us.
In addition we are commanded to take special care of those who may be more vulnerable in our society, in the instances cited in this reading widows, orphans, and the poor in particular. How we treat those less fortunate is a true measure of our compassion and our sense of stewardship.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Thessalonians, our Second Reading, takes compassion to another level. Compassion is more than words and comprehension, it has to do with action and perhaps even with power. In modern culture we have a bit of an overflow of information and entertainment but it is often mere words. It lacks the power of our Gospel. It includes the workings of the Holy Spirit, a living Person, who works within our hearts. When the Holy Spirit is involved, a great spiritual work can be accomplished. We may think too little about the spiritual aspects of the Word of God. It is much more than understanding and education. It is a complete devotion to this idea of love and compassion.
Paul refers to how the Thessalonians responded to the Word of God and it is a reminder to us that we must do the same. Paul says, “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth.” The Thessalonians responded to the Word by serving the living and true God. They did something with the Word, far more than just hearing it, and what they did was accomplished through love and compassion. That is our challenge as well.
If anyone understood the Law, Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man, certainly did. As a result the latest test offered to him in today’s Gospel from St. Matthew causes Him no difficulty. The desire of the questioner is to have Jesus select one commandment as more important than another. However, the Lord defines the Law based upon its core principles: love the Lord with everything you have and love your neighbor as yourself.
As impossible as it may be to love the Lord with everything we have, we can at least grasp that. There is much confusion though relating to what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. Yet, God’s expectations of us are briefly and powerfully stated in these two sentences. If the life of God is real in our own lives, it will be shown by the presence of our love for God and for others. It was St. Francis de Sales who wrote, “Examine your heart often to see if it is such toward your neighbor as you would like his or her to be toward you if your situations were reversed. This is the touchstone of true reason.”