Gospel Reflections

Gospel Reflection for  Sunday the 25th of October 2020

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30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Matthew 22:34-40

When I was a youngster, the Vauxhall Conference was the lowest tier of the English Football League and something of a joke. Back in 2007 a young player by the name of Jamie Vardy was making £30 a week in the Conference. By 2012 he had signed for Leicester City and his speedy promotion from the bottom to the top caused quite a stir. I’m fairly sure from my own limited sporting experience that there were quite a few elite defenders who thought to themselves – we will give this little toe-rag from the conference a fairly severe welcome to the big boys table. I’m certain his ankles were tested in those opening games. But as the quality around him rose, so did it bring the best out of Vardy and by 2016 he had led Leicester to a totally unexpected premier league title and he was now worth €18 million euro.

In a similar way, Jesus left the carpenters shed in lowly Nazareth and began to enjoy some success as a religious teacher. The elites – the scribes, the pharisees and the Sadducees – in their own way, decide to ‘welcome’ him to the big boys table. They would not have thought that he belonged there, so they decided to throw him in a few harsh tackles to test his metal and prove that he was out of his depth. The pharisees tested him about Caesars tax. The Sadducees tried to trip him up on Moses and the resurrection of the dead. And in this Sunday’s gospel, the Pharisees ask him (knowing that there was much dispute) which of the 613 commandments of the Torah was the greatest. Let us see how he gets on with the big hitters …

It is precisely here that Jesus proves his all-star quality. In his simple answer, he reveals to everyone the spine on which the entire Torah hangs. Firstly, he quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, known as the Shema – Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your strength. And then he compliments this first commandment with its image in Leviticus 19:18 – you must love your neighbour as yourself.

In this teaching, Jesus is telling us what is vital if we wish to play in the premier league of  religious life – if we wish to be saints. All the different commandments, and observances and customs that we have in our Catholic Faith are all important. However, the nucleus … the core around which they revolve is the great commandment. Jesus uses two words in this gospel which I underline and emphasis – greatest and first. This is the greatest and first commandment. Love the Lord your God with every fibre of your being. You can have all faith to move mountains. You can have a tremendous gift of prophecy. You can perform great feats of penance, almsgiving or even give away your body to be martyred … but if you are without this love – love for the LORD God, it will do you no good whatsoever.

This love which we feel towards God is a gift … the gift he gives us in prayer by allowing us to come to know him. Because to even get the smallest sense of what God is like in his essence, is to love him. God is love. Those who live in love live in God. The work of our Christian life is to dive ever more deeply into this love and to find it presence in every facet of life. Only in this way can we love God totally, if we find him in everything. Otherwise he will remain confined in a little box on a Sunday morning

If you wish to play in the premier league of Catholic Faith, if you wish to be a saint – in the words of St. Paul from the second reading – you need to break with idolatry (whatever might take that first and greatest place in your life) and become the servant of the real and
living God – who alone guarantees our eternity.

 

– Fr Vinny Stapleton