CONTENTS OF THIS SECTION
- Readings for the Sunday.
- Reflective Questions. For private or group use.
- Focusing the Gospel.
- Connecting the Gospel.
- Understanding Scripture.
- Web News!
SUGGESTION BEFORE YOU READ THE SCRIPTURES TODAY
Try not to read just to read it and get through it. Got my drift? We can do this so easily. Take the Readings slowly….as you read, you might like to read it aloud. The sounds of the words help us concentrate and it helps us reflect as we read. Try and be aware of your breathing before you even start….it is better to be at 5 k.p.h that 50! Enable words and meanings to gently jump out at you….soothingly take note in your mind as to what teases you as you read and see God’s Word. Don’t forget that the First Reading is always linked to the Gospel…..see if you can pick up the links.
First Reading: Exodus 22:20-26
The Lord said to Moses, ‘Tell the sons of Israel this, “You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them, they will surely cry out to me, and be sure I shall hear their cry; my anger will flare and I shall kill you with the sword, your own wives will be widows, your own children orphans.
“If you lend money to any of my people, to any poor man among you, you must not play the usurer with him: you must not demand interest from him.
“If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has; it is the cloak he wraps his body in; what else would he sleep in? If he cries to me, I will listen, for I am full of pity.”’
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Psalm: Ps 17:2-4. 47. 51
R. I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you. Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my saviour. My God is the rock where I take refuge; my shield, my mighty help, my stronghold.
The Lord is worthy of all praise: when I call I am saved from my foes. R.
Long life to the Lord, my rock! Praised be the God who saves me. He has given great victories to his king and shown his love for his anointed. R.
Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
You observed the sort of life we lived when we were with you, which was for your instruction, and you were led to become imitators of us, and of the Lord; and it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that you took to the gospel, in spite of the great opposition all round you. This has made you the great example to all believers in Macedonia and Achaia since it was from you that the word of the Lord started to spread – and not only throughout Macedonia and Achaia, for the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere. We do not need to tell other
people about it: other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Gospel: Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must 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 resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’
This is the Gospel of the Lord. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
How about going back to the First Reading and see if the link between it and the Gospel becomes more evident to you.
REFLECTIVE QUESTIONS::::::: POINTS TO PONDER ‘Lord, what are you saying to me through your Holy Word today?’
1. A special relationship between God and his people was created with Abraham and Moses. This relationship was two-way. God would look after and guide his people. God’s people would listen to and obey certain ‘laws’. The first 5 books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy) express what is required by both parties to live this ‘Covenant’. Todays reading explores the ‘covenant code’ and what social behaviours are required by God. Aliens (foreigners), widows and orphans have no protection of family or friends. But God loves them. We are to love, include and provide for them. Who are the equivalent of aliens, widows and orphans today? Are you living in ‘covenant-love’ with them?
2. Jewish people were not to demand interest. They developed the practice of a ‘pledge’ to ensure repayment. As a safe-guard God stated a poor person was not to go cold at night without his ‘cloak’. Certain measures were in place to protect the dignity of the poor. How could you relate this to today?
3. Paul continues his praise of the community of Thessalonika. Despite Paul and the other teachers being
forced to leave them because of persecution, their ‘imitation of them’ and ‘the word of the Lord sounding forth’ from them to other communities showed such courage and faith. Have you ever had someone inspirational leave you and yet you decided to ‘continue their example’? Who has done this for your faith journey? What happened?
4. Jesus is again forced into an argument with religious leaders. Pharisees decide to attack Jesus’ knowledge of the ‘Laws’. Jewish people had summarised all the laws of the first 5 books of the Old Testament into 613 laws. All were to be observed. Some were interpreted as ‘heavy – very important’ and some were thought of as ‘light – not as important’. Surprisingly, Jesus took a heavy law and and a light law and said they were intimately linked. Love God AND Neighbour. Jewish people interpreted ‘neighbour’ as fellow Israelites. Jesus’ teaching pushed ‘neighbour’ to include everyone. Everyone is to be treated as belonging to ‘yourself’ – as family! How does your love get ‘limited’? Why? Who gets excluded? Can you glimpse the heart of the gospel in this brief statement?
5. A common criticism of the prophets in the Old Testament was that love of God was celebrated in the temple with sacrifices and gifts – Sunday worship. But it stopped there! They cried: what God wants is ‘mercy, not sacrifices’. Christianity is not lived on Sunday alone. How could you show more clearly a Sunday AND Monday discipleship?
6. What is one action that you will do to ‘live-the-word’ this week?
COMMENTARY ON THE READINGS…..Lord, Your Words are nourishment…………………………..
Focusing the Gospel
Key words and phrases
To disconcert Jesus one of the Pharisees put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?
You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
You must love your neighbour as yourself.
All who love me will keep my words, and my Father will love them and we will come to them.
If you are harsh with the widow or the orphan, my anger will rage against you.
You turned away from idols to serve God and await his Son.
to the point
The two great commandments both deal with love – of God and of neighbour. The first reading details what love of neighbour requires. Why should we love our neighbour in such an extraordinary way? Because God has loved us in just the same way. God’s love for us sets the standard for our love of neighbour. In loving our neighbour we show our love for God.
Connecting the Gospel
to last Sunday
As the conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities escalates, the subject of the controversies grows more serious. Last Sunday the issue was paying taxes, this Sunday it’s about the essence of the Law and prophets.
Most of us don’t have difficulty loving those we know and care about. The first reading directs our love even toward the neighbour we don’t know.
Covenant and love
‘Covenant’ provides the background for both the first reading and gospel. The reading from Exodus is part of ‘The Covenant Code’ (Exodus 20:22 – 23:33) which scholars identify as the oldest collection of laws in the Bible. In Exodus 19 God makes a covenant with the Hebrews. A covenant is a standard instrument of international diplomacy by which kings established formal ties. The most important features of covenants were exclusive loyalty and the obligations that the lesser king owed the greater. The obligations required by the biblical covenant begin with the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-21) which are followed by ‘The Covenant Code,’ a wide ranging collection of laws, all understood to be required by Israel’s covenant with God. In this Sunday’s excerpt the Lord reminds the people of their bitter experience of oppression in Egypt. In effect, God says, ‘You didn’t like being oppressed: don’t oppress others’ (see Exodus 22:20). This is the inverse of the second great commandment, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:18). In the same way that God delivered the Hebrews when they were oppressed, God will deliver the poor who are badly treated. In both cases God’s motivation is the same: ‘I am compassionate’ (22:26).
Jesus’ quote from Deuteronomy 6:5 (= Matthew 22:37) is a succinct summary of the Book of Deuteronomy which, in its final form, is structured as a standard covenant. The requirement to ‘love’ was ‘boiler-plate’ language in covenants. It meant not affection or emotional commitment but exclusive loyalty to the king. Deuteronomy uses this language to reinforce its core teaching: Israel shall serve no other god but Y-hw-h. Idolatry – worshiping other gods – was the most serious breach of the covenant and triggered the harshest sanctions; conversely, ‘loving the Lord’ guaranteed blessing and prosperity. The command to ‘love God and neighbour’ was thus was a summary of the people’s covenant identity. But more: Jesus says the ‘the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments’ (Matthew 22:40). More than embodying covenantal obligations, the command to love summarises God’s entire self-revelation in both the Law and in the Prophets.
THE GREATEST SIGN OF GOD’S LOVE, ACCORDING TO ST.PAUL OF THE CROSS, IS HIS PASSION AND DEATH.