The Sunday Project

The Whole Law and the Prophets Depend on these Two Commandments

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time |

By Eilis
barbwire fence
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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 Thes 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 Reading
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."

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Here in the United States (and I suspect elsewhere around the world), we’ve been shocked by a news report from the border. 545 children were separated from their parents and, now, the government cannot find the parents.

I cannot help but reflect on this report in light of this weekend’s readings. The first reading from Exodus reminds us that “You shall not moleste or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” And, Matthew’s Gospel tells us: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yet, reading this story and the response of some people, it seems as if so many people around the world have forgotten these commandments. Around the world, we oppress immigrants and marginalized peoples while ignoring the notion that we all belong to one another. 

“Where did we go wrong,” I asked myself? Where did we lose sight of the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves? When did we stop allowing our hearts to be broken open by the news of children who remain separated from their parents? When did these children along the border become political and religious pawns? I have no answer for these questions. All I know is that if I try to love God with my entire heart, soul, and mind then I am also compelled to love the children separated from their parents...and the parents whose only choice for hope is to make the dangerous journey to the United States.

For me, the kicker in this weekend’s readings is the very last line of the Gospel: "the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” Loving God with all that I am and loving my neighbor as myself. These are not just suggestions for Christ seekers...these are commandments that the law and prophets depend on. I would assume that it challenged the prophets to spend time reaching out to the margins, while also tending to the interior spiritual life that roots us in the love of God. As for the law, I imagine a world where laws are created out of love for each of us and our neighbors...a world where no one is left behind or left out...and a world that hears the cries of the children separated from their parents.

My hope is that this week’s readings challenge us to live out of God’s extravagant love for us AND for all of our neighbors.