Commentary for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel reading revolves around the question: “Which commandment of the Law is the greatest?” Another way to put this question is to ask, “What do I need to do to achieve salvation?” It seems like a reasonable question. It certainly fits in with our computer motivated desire to find an instant solutions to a problem. “Tell me what to do, I’ll do it and that’s that.” The only problem is serving God takes a lot more than a simple action. “Love God with your whole mind, your whole heart, and your whole soul, and love your neighbor as yourself,” is more an attitude in life than a list of things to do.
The poet Maya Angelou was once asked what her lifetime goals were. She answered that she wanted to become a Christian. Maya Angelou is Christian. Her point is that Christianity is an ongoing process of becoming. Everyday we take steps to becoming a Christian.
And everyday God uses people to find him.
The Jewish spiritual writer, Rabbi Harold Kushner, sound very much like a devoted Christian when he states that people ask the wrong question: they often ask, “Where is God?” They should ask, “When is God?” And then he, a devoted Jew, states, “God is present when we love him and when we love our neighbor.
There is a story about a young woman who was in great distress because she had loss a sense of God in her life. She complained to her elderly grandmother, “Why doesn’t God let me feel His presence? If only I could feel Him and know that He has touched me.” Her grandmother said, “Pray to God, right now. Close your eyes and pray to him. Ask Him to put out his hand and touch you.” The girl closed her eyes and prayed fervently. Then she felt a hand on her hand. “He touched me. He touched me,” she cried out. Then she said, “You know, his hand felt just like your hand.” “Of course it was my hand,” her grandmother said. “That’s how God works.” He takes the hand that is nearest and uses that.”
I want to remind you this morning about the life of a woman who became God’s vehicle of love. She certainly didn’t start that way. She lived a very lose lifestyle in the 1920's. She had a baby out of marriage, then married, then divorced, then embraced the lose morals of the Roaring Twenties in Greenwich Village in New York City. She became a communist, the darling idealism of time. She was no Mother Theresa. In fact, she was the antithesis of Mother Theresa.
But then this woman found God. Actually, He was always there. She just stopped shutting him out of her life. She became a fervent Catholic and a dedicated Christian. In a short period she led a reform within the establish Church of America to reach out to the poor, the needy and the desperate. She was a crusader for social justice, a pacifist and even an anarchist, at least in those areas that she saw the local and national government existing only for itself.
Now, there is talk that this lady should be canonized, made a saint. She would be completely repulsed by that thought. In fact, even during her life people suggested that she would be made a saint by the church. She used to say that she didn’t want to be dismissed so easily. After all people tend to view saints as doing that which is beyond normal human life. She was really quite normal, and she wanted normal people to join her in finding Christ in others. Her point was that there was nothing extraordinary in doing what she did. All she did was love God and love neighbor, the ordinary way every Christian should live. This loving God and loving neighbor stuff wasn’t meant to be put on a pedestal as though the stuff of sainthood was different than the lives of everyday people. It was simply what all of us are called to do. Still, she probably won’t get her way. The lady I am referring to is Dorothy Day. She has often been called the saint for the third millennium.
The law and the prophets are summed up by loving God and loving neighbor. This is not something over and above our daily lives. It is the fabric of our lives. It is that which makes us who we are. Loving God and loving neighbor is the heart of our daily lives, the springboard of our actions, the basis of our decisions, the reason for our prayer life, the motivation of our lifestyle and the very reason why we are here this morning.
Which commandment is the greatest? The commandment to be so close to God that we become His presence for others. We pray today that we might love God with our whole heart, our whole mind and whole soul, then we will have no choice but to bring God’s love to those around us.
Fr Joseph Pellegrino, SJ