Reflection on the Readings at Mass for the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A. The Liturgical Sense of the Scriptures Podcast, by Catholic Author and Theologian David L. Gray. READINGS: Exodus 22:20-26, 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10, Matthew 22:34-40.
The Liturgy Equips Us to Love the Least Among Us
The Torah reveals God’s heart for His chosen people and His desire to draw near to those who will eventually be called to enter the New Covenant. He shows His love by making a way for the foreigner and the alien to be accepted and embraced by His People, so that they can also share in the blessings of the future Church. He does not want His people to hold any grudge or prejudice against them, but to remember their own history of being strangers in Egypt. The Torah is unique among other ancient Near Eastern law codes, such as the laws of Eshununna, Hammurabi, and Assyria, in that it commands His people to love the foreigner and the alien as themselves, not just to avoid harming them, but to treat them as one of their own (see Lev. 19:33-34).
In today’s First Reading from Exodus 22:20-26, God warns His people not to oppress or abuse them, but to identify with them, saying, “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.” He also threatens to punish them as He did the Egyptians if they cause any widow or orphan to cry out to Him in the same way that His people called out to Him while they were still being treated harshly as slaves in Egypt, saying, “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.”
This section of social laws also explains how some of the social laws in today’s First Reading reflect God’s care for the poor among His people. These laws prohibit charging interest on loans to the poor, and require returning their cloak as collateral before nightfall. The reason for these laws is that the poor are already in a difficult situation, and charging interest would only compound the matter. The cloak is also the poor person’s most valuable possession because it is their only source of warmth at night. These laws show that God does not want the creditors to exploit the poor, but to treat them with compassion and respect. The laws also echo other laws in Deuteronomy that protect the rights of debtors and limit the power of creditors (see Dt. 24:6, 10-13).
In today’s Second Reading from 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10, we see how the Apostle Paul commends this community of converts from paganism for following the example of the Apostles and of the Lord, even though they faced many hardships. Through their perseverance in the faith, they have become “a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” They are the living witnesses of the power and of glory of God; so much so that Paul does not need to preach the word of God in other places, because the word of God in Thessalonica speaks louder than his words. In this way, the converts’ love of God is so strong that it is helping their neighbors in other cities and countries.
In today’s Gospel Reading from Matthew 22:34-40, Jesus emphasizes the connection between the love of God and the love of neighbor that we find in Exodus and 1 Thessalonians. He teaches us that the love of God that has been given to us should overflow from our hearts and reach out to those who need it most. A Pharisee tried to challenge Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus replied, “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.” Jesus shows us that the law of God is not just a set of rules, but a way of life that transforms us from within. If we love God with our whole being, then we will also love our neighbor as ourselves, because God’s love lives in us and makes us a blessing for others.
As a living work of today’s theme, one way that the liturgy of the Catholic Mass reveals itself as being a divine good is by inviting us to align our whole being with God, so that we might be like God in the world. The liturgy not only teaches and moves us to pray and confess with our heart, mind, and tongue, but also shapes our bodily posture by having us stand, sit, and kneel before God, so that we might physically reflect the internal work that God is doing in us. Moreover, God Himself, through the Holy Spirit, comes to dwell in us as the Holy Eucharist; transforming us into what we have received, not in vain, but so that when we are sent forth from the liturgy through the ite, missa est, we might be a blessing to those we meet, and not only them, but that our love might be a powerful and compelling witness of God’s power that will draw people near and far to know that God is real and that He loves us more than we can ever imagine.
This is just one way how the readings at Mass this Sunday connect to the Liturgy and how the Liturgy is forming us how to live our lives in the world. Be in the world what you have received through the Liturgy.