Let us pray: Loving God, you love us, all of us, and ask in return that we love you with all our hearts and souls and minds. By your grace we will love and obey. Let it be so, now and forever. Loving God, you love us, all of us, and ask in return that we love our neighbors as we love ourselves. By your grace we will love and obey. Let it be so, now and forever. Amen
The Gospel according to Matthew 22:34-46
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet”’?If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.
We Have read in the last 2 Sundays Jesus’ two confrontations with the Jewish chief priest and elders, from questioning his authority and His thoughts on paying taxes to the emperor. Now they have one last question: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
Now they are testing Jesus, tempting him, trying to trip him up. If they can get Jesus to pronounce one law more important, they can be sure that they can twist things to embarrass Jesus, to discredit him. That was what they intended to do. Jesus knew what was going on. He understands that they are his enemy. He understands that he is treading on dangerous ground.
Have you ever experienced anything like that—being challenged “out of the blue” by a person whom you knew to be an enemy, put on the spot by someone trying to trip you up, to get you to make a mistake? It is pretty scary!
But Jesus didn’t let it trip him. He didn’t hesitate for a moment. He answered:
“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments”
Great answer. Most of us have heard this story before, and knew what Jesus was going to say. Love God! Love your neighbor! How could anyone argue with that?
But the other question is, how can anyone do that—love God—love your neighbor? Love God! Usually not a problem! At least it is not a problem when things are going well. During those times of our lives when we are healthy, wealthy, and wise, it is easy to love God. Thank you, God, for my good life! Thank you, God, for my family —my health—my job! Thank you, God, for all my stuff! It is easy enough to love God when things are going really well, although sometimes we forget God when things are going really well.
Ironically, it is often possible to love God when things are going really badly, when life brings us to our knees. Then we find time to pray. Cancer! Pray! Child in trouble! Pray! Need a job! Pray! It is interesting how today we all seem to need God. We continually ask Him to protect us and our families from the virus. Surprising How we don’t need God when life is good but now when we are threatened, we need God. But it does not always work that way. Sometimes when things go badly, we hate God. But most of the time, when things are going badly, we find it easy to love God, because we realize that we need God’s help, and we want God near us.
Love your neighbor. If I am going to love my neighbor, I must first love God, and then be willing to let God help me to love my neighbor. Jesus was asked for one great commandment, but Jesus gave them two, love God, and love your neighbor. The two go together. Each lean on the other and helps to support it. We might find it impossible to love our neighbor, but it becomes possible when we first love God. God not only tells us to love our neighbor, God re-shapes our hearts to make it possible. the love of which Jesus speaks here is more about what we do than how we feel. Jesus isn’t calling for us to feel warm feelings for God or neighbor. He is calling us to show our love for God by our obedience to God, and he is calling us to love our neighbor by acting in loving ways, by acts of kindness, by loving service, by gentle words and generous deeds. What we will find, if we do this, if we obey God and do good deeds for our neighbor, is that feelings follow actions. Our loving actions will help us, in God’s time, to feel the warmth and affection that we could never feel otherwise. In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. AMEM.