Pastor’s Letter: October 25, 2020
Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time October 25, 2020 “You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:34-40
Dear Parishioners: When Jesus is asked in today’s gospel, which is the greatest commandment, he quickly responds with the second half of the Shema, the great Jewish prayer that begins “Hear, O Israel!” (Deut. 6:5). In saying that the greatest commandment is to love God with your whole being, Jesus effectively answers the question posed to him by the scholar of the law. But Jesus doesn’t stop there; he adds a bonus answer, also saying what the second greatest commandment is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” By pairing together these two commandments from the Old Testament, Jesus reveals how we live out the first by doing the second. To love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul can be difficult to quantify or see, but in our actions of caring for our neighbor, God’s beloved sons and daughters, we show our devotion to God.
When we love God and love our neighbor, we are fulfilling the Mosaic Law. All of the law, the entirety of the more than 600 particular laws, are summed up in these two. For us today, we might think of something similar if one were to ask which is the most important teaching in the catechism, or which is the most important precept of the church. Perhaps a comparable question might be whether it is more important to tend to a sick relative or attend Mass? The answer sidesteps all these questions by saying the most important law is twofold: Love God and love your neighbor. With these as our guiding light, all else comes into focus.
Getting to the crux of the matter can be an important exercise. Pruning away extraneous detail to reveal the core issue is essential many cases. For Christians, we recall that Jesus’ teachings were rooted in Mosaic Law and the prophets. Yet he emphasized or combined aspects of each that made them seem to come alive, or to be read and understood in a new way. It’s certainly true that loving God and loving one’s neighbor were commandments in Mosaic Law. But who had ever combined them like this before? Ultimately, it’s good reminder of the core of the religious message. All of our actions ought to flow from this twofold love. Loving God and loving neighbor go together, and they cannot be reduced one to the other or one over the other. When we live by this guiding principle, we are living the paschal mystery.
In the Good Shepherd,
Rev. Robert B. Adamo