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In our Gospel this Sunday, like our Gospel last Sunday, we once again see two groups --- who would not have been considered allies --- come to Jesus with a question. In this case the Pharisees and the Sadducees, come to Jesus and one of them “a scholar of the law” asked Jesus: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Now this would not have been all that unusual a question. There were over 600 precepts or commandments in Judaism, and Rabbis and Teachers were often asked by their followers to offer some kind of order to them. The scholar of the law must have been at least somewhat surprised at Jesus’ answer. For Jesus didn’t give just one commandment, but two. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
In linking these two commandments Jesus is clear. We cannot say we love the God we do not see, if we do not love the neighbor we do see. Love of God and love of neighbor go hand in hand. And as the old song has it: You can’t have one without the other.
Our first reading this Sunday is taken from the Book of Exodus. In the section we read this weekend the people are warned that they are not to mistreat or oppress aliens, widows or orphans. These groups were among the weakest and most vulnerable, and God was clear that the mistreatment of them would bring dire consequences. While not explicitly a call to love your neighbor, it is clear that the people are called to care for those who are less fortunate.
Our second reading this weekend is from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians. Paul congratulates the Thessalonians for imitating him and the Lord, and thus spreading the faith. “For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
1. How do you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?
2. It is easy to love our neighbor in the abstract, but how do we do this in concrete and practical ways?
3. How can we lead others to Christ, by the witness of our lives?