FIRST READING Exodus 22:20-26
Thus says the Lord: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans. “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”
SECOND READING 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.
GOSPEL Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
My sisters and brothers in Christ,
All that God wants of us is to love Him and to love one another. Why can we not fulfill these commands? Why do we find ourselves so incapable of such a simple commandment? When we are honest with ourselves, we admit that there is something broken in our humanity. Our Catholic Tradition calls this “original sin” and because of our sinfulness, the Father sends His Son to save us in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The first reading today is from the Book of Exodus. This particular passage speaks to us of the mercy and compassion that God has for the orphans, the widows and the poor. God tells us that we must be like Him and also have mercy and compassion in a special way for the orphans, the widows and the poor. This is a requisite of those who belong to the “covenant.”
Today many of us Christians forget that we belong to the “new covenant” with Jesus Christ. We inherit the promises of the Old Covenant and have the gifts of the New Covenant. It is our baptism into Christ that makes us members of this Covenant. It is important for us Christians to remember that in this New Covenant we have the promise and commitment of God Himself for our salvation and for our well-being.
The second reading is from the First Letter to the Thessalonians. In this passage of this Letter, Saint Paul reminds us that we must always give example of how to live our Christian faith. When we live with joy and gladness the New Covenant, others are drawn to come to know the Lord. Most of us know at least one or two people that we would consider models for living a Christian life. We ourselves need to become models of how to live. We do that we striving to live as Christ lived, striving to be faithful to our Covenant with Him and by each day renouncing all that is against the Lord.
Today’s Gospel from Saint Matthew is very short but also very clear. What is the greatest commandment? To love God and to love one another. This message of the Lord Jesus is very clear: to live is to strive to love! If we want to be faithful to the God who created us, then we must love all others. We know that in the tradition, it is easy to love those who love us. Jesus calls us to love everyone and that proof of that love is the special love that we must have for our enemies and those who try to destroy us.
We are invited today to live more profoundly the love given to us in Christ Jesus. We are invited to show that love for all people and especially for those who are our enemies in any way. The promise for us, the Covenant, is that we shall possess everlasting life and be with the Lord forever.
Your brother in the Lord,