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LOVING GOD AND NEIGHBOUR. Reflection for the 30th Sun, Ord Time, Yr. A.
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Sat, 28 Oct 2017

Given today’s culture which espouses a philosophy of ‘seeing is believing’, some people may not feel strongly about the love of an ‘unseen’ God, as opposed to their ‘falling in love with’ a friend or neighbour. Others who say they do not necessarily believe in God, claim they love themselves and love other people, though they struggle with the idea of loving God. There is therefore, a sharp edge to today’s readings which invite us to the dimension of love of God, and love of neighbour.

The ‘option for the poor’ opens today’s first reading. It does contain, not only the kernel of the love of God and neighbour, but extends the emphasis on neighbour with regards to the stranger, the widow and the orphan. At the same time, its characterisation of ‘my people, the poor among you’ (Ex 22:24) is not about metaphorical, but biblical poverty. And it is a sense of the concrete, painful, flesh-and-blood reality of deprived persons; those living the drama of suffering, and loss of their personal dignity in society. Precisely in God’s dedication to them (‘if they cry to me, I will listen’ Ex 22:26), the first reading identifies and reiterates, just who the God of the Bible is: The God of the poor!

By commanding the ‘sons of Israel’ to love and obey God; and demanding that such love and obedience be seen to play out in conscious social relationships, the first reading anticipates today’s Gospel. Here, the banding together of the Pharisees to prefer today’s question throws up their relentless attempts to trip Jesus. Yet, the polemical posture of their query, and their machination against how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, is not the essence of the Gospel pericope. What is, is the standard response of Jesus, which shows that the query arose enough times during his ministry.

Loving God - already hymned in today’s responsorial psalm, assumes a new impetus in the Gospel. And with it, the human love, often the biological attraction within or outside the sexes which fades, weakens or dies as soon as it is born, now faces something deeper namely, the intimate connection between our faith in God and our proper regard and relationship with one another.

Again, to ‘love the lord your God’ (Dt 6:4) which Jesus reiterates as ‘the greatest and the first commandment’, is not simply about a feeling, though ‘falling in love’ is. But now, the true love of neighbour (Lev 19:18), which Jesus names here as the ‘second greatest commandment’ becomes properly so, only when it resembles the love of God. There is a novelty here: loving neighbour now stands at par with, and side by side to, one’s understanding of loving God. Thus, we see the sharp edge of the readings in this singular claim namely that, it is only when we effectively love God, that others become truly, deeply and genuinely lovable.

Furthermore, loving God is not presented as a commandment like others. Moses’ Ten commandments speak of serving God, including the specific actions to be performed or avoided. But when it comes to loving God, there are no limits intended, nothing measured, limited or prohibited. This is because love of God is the fruit of the Spirit which God gives afresh to his Children who long for God from a resolute intention, and seek God by a conscious decision.

Today, the deeper sense of the Christian's love of God and neighbour needs to be made public, not only because, they form the bases on which everything else depends, but also as Paul is reminding us: “the news of your faith in God has spread everywhere” (Thess 1:8). The Christian goodness, now has a re-definition; and it should make us great examples in more specific and more tangible ways.

Philanthropy, which does good works for reasons having little or nothing to do with God or believe in God is not enough. Instead, the Christian charity should be like the perfume that emanates from the flower: one follows it but only to be drawn forward to reaching its very source. Our love and care for the neighbour or the needy in a genuine and selfless manner must reflect, lead to and indeed, bring home, our absolute love for God. This, we believe, is loving God and neighbour.

 

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