30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR A ON OCTOBER 25TH, 2020 (R. 1: Exodus 22: 20-26; Psalm 18: 2-4, 47, 51; R. 2: 1 Thessalonians 1: 5c-10; Gospel: Matthew 22: 34-40)
FR EMMANUEL INEDU OCHIGBO
THE BINDING CORD
The religious leaders have refused to give up on their plan to get Jesus into a trap. It all began after the events of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and the cleansing of the Temple by Jesus. They were not happy with the words and the actions of Jesus. They had been looking for a way to get him into trouble. All previous efforts had failed, and so today, they are trying something new, they are using a scholar of the law to ask Jesus a question that will get him into trouble. But according to Richard Swanson, “The Pharisees take their best shot and it misfires. Jesus fires back, and no one bothers to reload.” The scholar of the law asked Jesus, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” When the Jews talk about the law, they might be referring to one or all of the following: the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible- Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy), the Decalogue (Ten Commandments), the entire Old Testament, or the 613 precepts made up by the rabbis.
There were two possible motives behind the question asked by the scholar of the law: in the first place, the religious leaders wanted to entrap him in heresy, they wanted him to choose one of the commandments, so they could draw the conclusion that the others are not important. Secondly, they could be doing that to use Jesus as an excuse to free themselves of the burden of the law, in which case, they would say, Jesus said the others are not important, that is why they were not keeping those commandments.
In response, Jesus says that love is the greatest of all the commandments, love of God and love of neighbor. The unique thing about this response from Jesus is that Jesus does not undermine the rest commandments; instead of reducing the importance of the rest of the law, he presents the law as a coherent whole that hangs together on the cord of love. All we need is love, which binds all together. If we look at the laws of God with the eyes of love, we will not find them burdensome. I call this, “heaven made easy.” You do not need a degree in theology before you can love, you do not need to memorize the entire bible to go heaven, just love God and your neighbor. But there is some danger in this simplicity, we can easily take love for granted, so watch it!
Today’s readings also prepare us for the celebration of the Solemnity of All Saints that comes up in the next few days. It is the day we celebrate those who spent their lives here on earth loving God and loving their neighbors, and as a reward, are now enjoying love eternally with God in heaven. Sometimes, some Catholics ask me, “Father, how can God, who is all love, send people to hell fire?” I always tell them that God does not send anyone to hell fire. At the judgment, it is going to be “auto-select”; people are going to choose their destinations by themselves based on how they lived their lives here on earth. It is just like gathering people from all walks of life in a place. Without telling them which group to mingle with, people on their own will begin to choose their groups based on common interest. Those who love talking sports, for example, will easily get themselves together; those who love discussing politics will easily gather themselves together, etc.
Similarly, at the judgment, those who spent their lives on earth loving God and loving their neighbors, will easily be attracted to where there is love for all. But those who spent their lives on earth segregating, discriminating, and hating people because they do not look like them, or for any other reason, will find it “uncomfortable” in heaven where all are one in love without discrimination, and so, they will automatically move away from the place of love to the place where there is absence of love.
According to St. Augustine, “Love God and do what you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.” So, my dearly beloved in Christ, let us continue to pray that God may bind us together in love so that at the end of our sojourn here on earth, we will find ourselves being attracted to heaven where there is love, through Christ our Lord. Amen.