Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 25, 2020
(Exodus 22:20-26; I Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40)
(There is a saying: "All roads lead to Rome." You can change the saying for the four gospels. "All roads lead to Jerusalem." The purpose of the gospels is to show how Jesus dies in Jerusalem to redeem man from sin. For the past four Sundays we have found Jesus in Jerusalem debating with the Jewish leaders. First, he had to explain to the high priests why he had overturned the tables in the temple. So last Sunday he proved more cunning than the Pharisees who wanted to trip him up with the question about the tribute to Caesar. Now Jesus answers another leading question.
A doctor of the law approaches Jesus asking which commandment is the greatest. There are 613 commandments in the Mosaic Law. They are all considered important. Is the greatest the first one written in Genesis, "Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it"? Or perhaps it is the first in the Decalogue: "You will have no other gods apart from me." Still, Jesus doesn't seem discouraged by being tested with such a knotty question. On the contrary, as a bright young man he seems eager to manifest his understanding.
Jesus answers the question more with wisdom than mere knowledge. There is no elder authority that forms the first commandment in the same way as it. Perhaps Socrates would say, "The greatest commandment is 'Know yourself.' Machiavelli, the famous political philosopher of the Renaissance, perhaps would propose: "Be strong so that everyone respects you." But Jesus, whose human will always conforms to the divine will, does something wonderfully original. Because of his Jewish ancestry, he says that you have to love God above all else. But immediately he adds, as if there were not the first without the second, you have to love your neighbor. Like horse and carriage, it is not possible to love God if we do not love other human persons.
But what is love that Jesus refers to? It's certainly not the taste of tourists wearing T-shirts: "I love New York." Nor is it sexual gratification as contemporary songs would have. No, the love that Jesus has in mind is the sacrifice of the self for the good of the other. It is the love that Saint Paul wrote to the Romans: "God showed us his love in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
You can see this love in the lives of the saints. Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus wanted to go to the missionary lands and die as a martyr. But she was not only a nun in a convent but also sick and weak. Then she realized that she could fulfill her desire to be martyred by deepening in love. She devoted herself more and more to prayer and the good of her companions in the convent. Likewise, it is said of San Martín de Porres that she spent the nights in prayer and penance and the days showing the goodness of God in full force. One day when he returned to his convent, Martín found a bleeding man lying in the street, the victim of a murderer's dagger. Martín bandaged the wound as much as possible and rushed her to her convent to save her life. There he had to put him in his own bed because the superior of the convent forbade him to shelter the sick in the convent. When the superior found out, he demanded an explanation from Martín. The humble brother said he did not think that the precept of obedience exceeded that of charity.
"He who loves a lot, long ago" is a simple saying. It is rooted in the gospel and also in the lives of the saints. This type of love surpasses the dissimulations found in songs and in T-shirts. Those who follow him fulfill the first commandments of Jesus: "Love God first, then your neighbor."