Just a word… Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time…

Just a word… Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time… October 25, 2020

Do you think that Jesus enjoyed sparring with the Jewish authorities? Last week he flummoxed the Sadducees with their tax issue, and now it is the Pharisees who want to challenge and attempt to trap Jesus by asking him to choose among some 600 laws as to which is the greatest. Surely all the laws were not of equal importance, though I imagine each person had his favorite. No doubt they stood ready to pounce on whatever choice Jesus might make.

Jesus, not taking the bait, responds with the great Hebrew prayer, The Shema. Every Jew is obliged to pray the Shema every morning and night, as a reminder to love God with all one’s heart, soul and mind. Jesus doesn’t stop at one commandment, though, but adds an- other from the Jewish Code of Holiness, as it is like the first… loving one’s neighbor as oneself. All the other commandments, and laws, hang on these two, and like a door that will be out of balance if one of the hinges is missing, one’s life will be mis-aligned if both these command- ments are not followed.

The union of these two great commandments is part of our heritage from the Jewish people, as well as one of the puzzles of our lives, collectively and individually. How do we love the God we cannot see? How do we love the neighbor we might not like? The good news is that it can be done…millions of people have done it, most of whom do not have law degrees or doctorates in metaphysics. Historically, most knew less about God than you or I do. The thing is that knowing about God does not guarantee that one will love God. It is rather through our experience that we can come to love God, and our neighbor.

Of course, we cannot force an experience of God, but we can ask for it, and God freely gives to those who ask. ASK…and then listen. Just by asking, you begin to lay the groundwork for the eventuality of love. Besides asking, ACT! If you want to love God, love God’s image: love the men and women who inhabit your everyday life. To love them calls not for law books, but for imagination. It means developing eyes and ears that are skilled at catching glimpses of God in the human faces that surround us. Of course, it is easy to spot the God of joy, laughter, and promise. It is perhaps more difficult to witness the God who suffers, who is vulnerable, lonely or afraid. But do act, and soon you will realize that the God you cannot see is as close to you as the neighbor you can see… and closer still.

Love God and love neighbor; ask and act. If we do both, we will not only know about God, we will come to love God. Ask and act and you’ve found the door, the one that hangs on two well-aligned hinges, and that door opens to the kingdom of God.

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