Love of God, Love of Neighbour: Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Today’s Gospel has the well-known reminder about the dual nature of the greatest commandment: love of God and love of neighbour. There are many people in the world who err on one side or the other – loving God and ignoring the person sitting across from me, or doing a tremendous job of caring for the other without any sense of it being a work of God.
The constant challenge for all of us is maintaining a balance, one that is in sync with the real situation of our life. For instance, I probably have less time and energy if I have a growing family. Or, others may benefit from my skills if I am retired and gifted with boundless energy.
The reading from the Book of Exodus offers a few explicit illustrations of what love of neighbour looks like. The Lord reminds people of their own history and uses that to spur on the people. You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.
The writer goes on to make reference to widows and orphans, and to deal with matters such as lending to the poor or taking a piece of clothing in pawn. Here is biblical justice: If you take your neighbour’s cloak in pawn, you shall restore it before the sun goes down; for it may be their only clothing to use as cover; in what else shall that person sleep?
What a practical illustration of the love of neighbour! The writer makes irrelevant any empty or pious statements about our love of God, by connecting love of both God and love of neighbour.
We have become increasingly connected to a wide circle of neighbours. It is not restricted to our families and those in our immediate circle. Social media and the 24-hour news cycle mean that we are aware of the victims of an earthquake halfway across the world or the victims of a tragic accident elsewhere in our region.
Discernment is a must in working toward a balanced approach to the love of neighbour. I cannot help everyone, so I must prioritize. When it comes to the love of neighbour, each of us has to be our own charitable foundation, naming the priorities for our time and money.
The love of God stressed by Jesus is offered with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. We need to find our own patterns for showing our love for God. There are as many forms of prayer as there are individuals. My interior life must be mine, not yours.
What form of prayer helps me to feel closest to God? If I find repetitive prayer such as the Rosary unhelpful, there are many options. Someone else may prefer the Rosary, precisely because of its repetitive nature. There are so many options: meditation or contemplation on Scripture, the Liturgy of the Hours, journaling or drawing, listening to music, reading a spiritual classic, a quiet walk through the beauty of the earth, and so on.
What is most conducive for you at this time in your life?
Let’s pray this week for the grace to know the most helpful way to show love of my neighbour and the most appropriate way to love God.