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Homilies/Reflections

LOVE OF GOD AND NEIGHBOR. A reflection for the 30th Sunday of the Ordinary Time, Year A
By Fr. Modestus Mgbaramuko
Wed, 28 Oct 2020

Readings: Ex 22:20-26; 1Thess 1:5-10; Mt 22: 34-40

    The message of love of God and love of neighbor has been preached for uncountable times in our lives. As with everything else that we hear repeated often, the tendency is to be careless about such information. That brings up the first question of today’s bible lesson: How can we change our care-free attitudes to the demand of loving God by showing genuine care to one another?

  Honor – “nkwanye ugwu” is well-known among our Igbo people. Apart from being the hallmark behavior of a well-brought-up person, the virtue of honor is a reciprocal one. Today, the word of God in the Gospel asks us – in unequivocal and direct terms to love God and love one another. Please take a minute and think through this message:

   To truly love and honor God requires that we begin again to respect those God has placed near us. I am not sure who you include or exclude in “agbata obi” (neighbor). However, we say that “Agbata obi mmadu bu nwa nne ya,” which curiously captures the Semitic idea of the term as “one’s kin” or “someone near” (as in Lev 19:18, “rea” or השכן). But today’s reading does not use neighbor in its Hebrew or Igbo sense of “Agbata obi, “ikwu n’ibe” or “nwanne mmadu,” since the Christian New Testament follows the Greek Version of the Old Testament known as the “Septuagint.” In Luke 10:29, telling us of Matthew’s version of this story, the Torah expert asked the follow-up: “And who is my neighbor?”

  Today, what the Lord Jesus interprets to us by πλησίον σου or “your neighbor” (Mt 22:39) goes far beyond “neighbor” as Lv 19:18 uses it. My neighbor, your neighbor, our neighbor, is not our brother or our sister alone. It is whoever God has placed around you to encounter you in any way, shape, or form. Your neighbor is a fellow Nigerian, or he could be the Chinese man or lady that works with you.” Love your neighbor applies to him! So if you thought that love your neighbor is easy or an ordinary piece of advice, then please, think it over again.

    Unlike those who heard it from Moses, the first reading today challenges in more complex ways. The “stranger, the “widow,” and the “orphan” mentioned to us today are still the people without protection. Even when the poor and the need, widow, or orphan appear to be helped or protected today. They often pay many “heavy” prices for the compassion that some people claim to give them. It is against making gains, “charging interest” or taking the undue advantage of “neighbor” that the word of God addresses us today. It does not challenge us in any impossible ways, other than the justice, genuine love, or fairness we know in our consciences, but feel indifferent to put in practice.

  If our challenges appear to be great today, it is because our graces are even more extraordinary, and the revelation that Jesus makes to us is far more abundant. Such abundant grace and favor form the “sort life we lived” when the Gospel shaped the rule of our lives. As Paul recalls, it was with the joy of the Holy Spirit that we took the Gospel. Our parents and we were great believers from whom the Catholic faith spread in leaps and bounds at our baptism.

    Now, at such a scary and challenging time of distrust, mutual hatred, and fear of our neighbors, we hear the voice of Jesus Christ in the Gospel. It says to us: Love the Lord your God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

 

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