Readings and Reflections

 

St Peter's/St Joseph's Bidding Prayers 24th/25th October 2020

Priest: Today we are told to love God and to love our neighbour. ln making these prayers let us ask for the grace to fulfil these two great commands.

Reader: We can love God by making time for prayer: Let us always reflect on our lives and marvel at what God does for us. Lord in your mercy.

We can love God by respecting his creation: Let us be mindful of the effects our actions have on wellbeing of mother earth. Lord in your mercy.

We can love our neighbour by considering everyone to be my brother or my sister: Let us let go of the judgements and prejudices that belittle others. Lord in your mercy.

We can love our neighboui' by having regard foi'those less stroiig than ourselves: Let us pray for the sick, the lonely, and those suffering from'the economic fallout of the pandemic. Lord in your mercy.

We commend to the loving mercy of the Father in heaven those who have died recently and those whose anniversaries occur at about this time: May they be welcomed into God's heavenly kingdom. Lord in your mercy.

ln a moment of silence let us talk to the Lord about how we try to love him and how we try to love others. [After o pause] Lord in your mercy.

Mary taught her Son to observe the two commands of God every time they went in and out of their house. We ask her to pray for us to be mindful of God. Hail Mary....

Priest: Father in heaven, you sent your Son Jesus to teach us your commandments. We make these prayers today in his name for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever. Amen.

Reflection for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time Sunday, 25th October 2020

If you do not have a copy of the missalette, you can find today's readings at www.universalis.com

Last Sunday we heard Jesus respond to a trap - the question of paying tribute to Caesar. This week we hear him respond to a different sort of question, but to understand the context, we need to know what has happened while we have been away, so speak... After the trap laid by the Pharisees, who (for all the way we tend to look at them as rigid and elitist) were the populists of iudaism at the time of Jesus, the Sadducees move in. They are the real conservatives; holding that only the first five books of the Bible are inspired, they do not believe in the resurrection, and challenge Jesus overthis with the far-fetched story of the seven brothers each of whom, ln turn, marries the same woman in order to carry on the farnily name. Jesus turns the tables on them in a very rabbinic way, and silences them with his argument which takes them on in their own terms: then the Pharisees move in again.

The 'lawyer' is one learned in Torah, in the Law of God revealed through Moses. Jesus is being asked not just for "which commandment comes first?" but "which commandment is the summary of all the others?", "which commandment is the centre of the Law by which we live?" This was a vital question, because for the rabbis the world hung on Torah - observance of the Law - on temple service, and on deeds of loving kindness. But there is also something of a trap here, because with almost any answer Jesus might give, the lawyer could find some rabbinic authority who would disagree; ("two lawyers, three opinions" was as true then as it is today).

Jesus goes back to the book of Deuteronomy, to the text which good Jews had written at the door of their house and on a small scroll which they would always have on their person: the Shema - "Hear O lsrael" - "Shema Yisroel, Adonai Eluhenu Adonai Ehath" - Hear O lsrael, the Lord your God is One Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all vour strength." So far. so unassailable: no-one could disagree that that was the greatest commandment.

And then Jesus changes things: he takes a less central commandment as far as Jewish understanding was concerned, from the Book of Leviticus, and puts it right up there with the command from the Shema - "and you shall love your neighbour as yourself." The command is not new- but making it central is. And Jesus underlines how central in the last verse of our reading today: "On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets" - in other words, everything that Judaism holds dear, the Torah, the books of the Prophets - all the scriptures of the Hebrew Bible, all the teachings of the Rabbis - everything hangs on these two commands: the Law itself depends on deeds of love, And so for us these commands of Jesus are central for anyone who thinks of themselves as a follower of Jesus. And the rabbis have something to share with us here, because they saw very clearly that the command from Deuteronomy ("You shall love the Lord your God...")wasn't a command to have nice feelings about God. lt was a matter of fidelity, of covenant, of commitment to act in love - "with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength."

To the measure that we do this, we act in the image of God. The first reading tells us that God is compassionate, and that true compassion is a fierce and powerful thing: if we act against those whom God loves, we will feel the full power of God's compassion rebuking our lack of compassion. The second reading tells us of the effect that our compassion can have - of the power of witness that our living according to the two great commandments can have. Just as last week, Paul writes to the Thessalonians and tells them how well they are doing - he encourages them with the news of the witness that they are giving.

Let us ask the Holy Spirit to show us how we are witnesses to the Good News of the Gospel, how the quality of our living is already a sign of the Kingdom of God to those among whom we live and work. Let us ask the Spirit, too, to lead us further into the fullness of living, that living which is in accordance with the great commandments, so that we can live and love with all our hearts, with all our strength, with all our minds. And so we glorifv God bv our lives. Brendan Callaghan SJ