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Ordinary Time 30 (A)
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Readings for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

1. Exodus 22, 20-26

  • Immediately I hear the Lord speaking.  I hear a tone of outrage, and also of finality.  From this time forward: You shall not molest or oppress an alienYou shall not wrong any widow or orphan.
  • Widows and orphans are not so few in our world, but I may of course expand them to include single mothers and their children.  I know some very well, and hear of countless others, and their number is growing every day.  Let me think of this while I present the text to the assembly.  God is outraged, and what about me?  What does ‘molest or oppress’ include?  Does it include shifting the tax burden, denying food and educational assistance, relegating them to domestic service to the rest of their family, and above all squeezing out of them the hope they have for their children?  I will barely be able to contain myself as I read the passage.
  • You shall not act like an extortioner toward your neighbor.  If you take your neighbor’s coat as a pledge you shall return it to him before sunset.  For what else has he to sleep in?  So am I the one who is bringing politics into the church?  These are the words of scripture, put in the mouth of God.  In fact, everything we declare in the name of social responsibility has been inspired by scripture.
  • Today’s Gospel passage presents the two great commandments, one of which is love for neighbor.  I think that the reading from Exodus is a commentary on love of neighbor.  The reading does not tell us how to love our neighbor, but instead lists prohibitions against some ways we might abuse them.  If we avoid trampling on their destitution and extinguishing the little self-pride left to them, then we can find ways to express the same positive compassion that God shows.
  • If he cries out to me I will hear him, for I am compassionate just compassionate, without qualification, and nothing but compassionate.  Filled with compassion, as the psalm says.  God is love, self-emptying, as the apostle says.  I will reclaim this word from the sloganeers, because it belongs not to them to defile, but to God alone.  And God has passed judgment on our so-called compassion in today’s reading.  This is my faith; I am indeed proud to profess it!
  • Central point: Some of us may become more attuned to God’s command through our prayer.  But to whom is God most attuned?  God stands with the powerless among us.  I will surely hear their cryI am compassionate. 
  • Message for our assembly: Will we believe what God is telling us?  Will it affect the work of our local church?  Will it affect our political goals, and the expectations we have for our city, our nation and our political leaders?  How do we rate against the benchmark of performance God sets?  Will we imitate our creator and sustainer in this?
  • I will challenge myself: To speak these admonitions with God’s own authority, as protector of the poorest people.  I often hear the phrase about the Holy Spirit: ‘Father of the poor.’  Let me show the congregation that the phrase is not just true but living and effective.

 

2. I Thessalonians 1, 5-10

  • I gather from the reading that the apostle was very proud of this church.  And through his words we come to understand how evangelization worked in his time, and how it must work in the church today. 
  • I look for the words and will make sure my listeners hear them: imitators, affliction, joy from the Holy Spirit, reception, turned to God, await his Son from heaven.  And what a central role we have in evangelization: From you the word of the Lord has sounded forth.  I will practice that archaic phrasing until it truly ‘sounds forth,’ in a manner worthy of the spiritual explosion that happened in Thessalonika.  Does it describe the way we proclaim the word to each other?
  • We have no need to say anything.  The apostle is proud of this church.  It is the highest honor an apostle can give a disciple.  It will be a high point in my reading.
  • There is another side of the coin, a responsibility that goes with this recognition.  The Thessalonians must remain a role model for others.  You became a model for all believers not only in Macedonia but in Achaia.  Everyone now knows about you:  how you serve the living and true God and await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead – Jesus -- who delivers us.  I note the present tense of ‘delivers’ and pass it forward to our own time.
  • Central point: Evangelization spreads like a wildfire when it catches hold.  In the beginning of Acts we hear the command to witness to Jesus “in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.”
  • The message for our assembly: We are not alone.  People are watching us, too, to see whether we show the fruits of the Spirit.
  • I will challenge myself: To capture the wonder of the rapid growth of the church through the cities where the apostle traveled, and fill my listeners with hope for a further spread of the Good News in our own city and time.

 

Gospel. Matthew 22, 34-40

  • Do I look for a catechism in the Bible?  In today’s Gospel passage I find it. 
  • Jesus quotes from the Bible passage that every Jew knows by heart, and which is announced at the beginning of every Sabbath prayer.  But his answer really comes from within us.  It is the impulse of our lives, not a coached answer, not a fact discovered in a book. 
  • His adversaries ask him: Which commandment in the law is the greatest?  Jesus answers them a little differently, and I shall mark the difference.  This is the greatest and the first commandment.  In other words, it is the foundation of all the others, including the second.
  • Jesus adds a second commandment like it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  As we say today, when we dedicate ourselves to the cause of men and women, especially those mentioned in the first reading, we in fact dedicate ourselves to the cause of God.
  • Climax: Jesus says: The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.  Then any catechism we might read must also begin with them.
  • Message for our assembly: Neither the law written by Moses nor the law governing the church is a mere enumeration of human conventions.  Both are based on love, which is at the heart of God’s covenant with us. 
  • I will challenge myself: To let my whole reading echo this interior source.  We hear this commandment from God and it answers the longing of our hearts.

Word to Eucharist: The God whom we approach today is known among us most of all as compassionate.  Let us pray for the grace to be like the God to whom we pray, to find love at the head of the catechism of our faith.

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