Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Matthew 22. 34-40

"Which is the greatest commandment?"

The disputes continue. Jesus has once again silenced the Sadducees and now one of the Pharisees tries to trap Jesus by asking him which is the greatest commandment. For the Pharisees that referred to all the six hundred and thirteen laws that governed every single detail of daily life; which of those, they wanted to know, is the most important? In reply Jesus quotes the Shema: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might”. This is the underlying spirit of all the commandments; this is what inspires them all.

Even though he is asked only about the first, the greatest, commandment, Jesus immediately adds a second: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”. This second commandment also comes from their scriptures, but there is something new here. What is new is the way in which Jesus places the two commandments side by side. He insists that true love of God must always include love of neighbour. His own life is a stunning example of how these commandments hold together; they are like vertical and horizontal beams of his cross, reaching up to God and out to others.

It was the great and unique contribution of Jesus to present these two commandments as the core of the whole law, to bring them together in this way, and to emphasise the love of neighbour as the special mark of his followers. If our faith in Christ is to give meaning and direction to the way we live, then we must recognise the intimate connection between our relationship with God and our relationship with our neighbour. It is through love of neighbour that we give concrete expression to our love of God. In other words, our love of God is to be enfleshed in the down-to-earth realities of our everyday relationships with one another.