Sunday reflection by Very Reverend Stephen E. Salocks, Rector of Saint John's Seminary - October 25, 2020
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
On this Thirtieth Sunday of the Year, we, the Church, prays that God will “increase our faith, hope, and charity, and makes us love what [God] commands” so that we may merit what He promises. The scriptures of this day not only compel us to reflect on the love of God and the love of our neighbor as the greatest of the commandments but also exhort us to follow God’s loving and compassionate acts on our behalf.
Early in the Gospel of Matthew, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus specifically said that he came “not to abolish the law but to fulfill it” (Matthew 5:17). Today, we hear Jesus being once again challenged by the Pharisees as one of them, a scholar of the law, tests Jesus about the greatest commandment of the law. Jesus knows that the Law is a covenant – a relationship of love and respect, compassion and mercy, justice, and forgiveness between God and His people.
The Law and the Prophets were – and are – a constant reminder of the covenant relationship that we have with our God. There were over six hundred laws in the Torah, but the two that inseparably express the spirit of God’s law are the love of God and love of neighbor. The command to love was central to the teaching of Jesus, and the Gospels and Letters of the New Testament apply this teaching in many ways.
To love God with the intensity that Jesus commands – all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind – is a tall order. It means that we become instruments of God’s love for others, that we will be ready to give of ourselves to those around us, especially those who are most vulnerable and in need. It means that we are willing to empty ourselves just as Christ did for us.
Jesus Christ is the fullest expression of God’s love for us and the fulfillment of all of God’s concern and care for us from the very beginning. Today’s First Reading from the Book of Exodus is an excerpt from the Law and gives a good example of God’s care for His people. The passage from Exodus reminds God’s people of His attentive care and attention to those in distress. God hears the cry of the widow and the orphan, just as he heard the cry of the people in Egypt. The passage encourages and challenges the people to imitate God’s attention to the cries of those in need and to imitate his compassion for us all.
Today, we pray that our loving and compassionate God will continue to help us appreciate the communion that He calls us to – communion with God and with our neighbor. May we continue to hear Christ’s call to be models of Gospel love to all we meet!