Sunday 29 October 2023
Matt 22:34-40

“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength”. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’”.
(Matt 22:34-40)

The Hebraic faith is summarised in the Shema Israel prayer, “Listen Israel” (cfr. Deut 6:4-5): to love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul (which means life or vitality) and with all your strength (meaning, our material wealth). This is the horizon of perfection to which the earliest Church is directed. With this in mind, the Acts of the Apostles gives us two ‘icons’ of the first Christian communities: they were of one heart and one mind, and they shared their material goods in common (Acts 2:42-47 and Acts 4:32-35).

To this, Jesus adds the precept found in Lev 19:18: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. We can deceive or be deceived by words, but not by actions: “Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also” (1 Jn 4:20-21).

So, our love for God is measured by the love we have for our brother and sister, for those who are around and near to us: not for someone abstract who lives far from me, but for the one with whom I encounter (and clash) with on a daily basis. This is the challenge of love! And if I love ‘everyone’ but have problems with someone, that individual will be the sacramental sign and measure of my love for God. I will have to do my best to be able to welcome or forgive them, knowing that loving ourselves is the starting point (“you will love your neighbour AS YOURSELF”). So, first of all, we must be able to live at peace with ourselves and welcome ourselves with our limitations and imperfectness.

In conclusion, the guarantee of an authentic Christian life is to love God with all our heart, bearing witness to it by our life, and sharing our material goods, as well as becoming reconciled with oneself in order to love our neighbour with dignity.

Fr. Giuseppe