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Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 23, 2011 (30A)
By Fr. James Gilhooley
When one elephant in a herd is hurt, other elephants will help the injured animal stay on its feet. They crowd about the injured elephant and provide a shoulder for him to lean on. Can we do less for people?
The Herodians, Pharisees, and Saducees, pursuing Jesus in today's Gospel, were wannabe jailers. They had hunted Jesus for three years. They wanted Him out of their lives. Each time out they came up not with His scalp but with empty air. They were losers.
Today's strategy was foolproof. Or so they thought. They took turns baiting Jesus with thorny legal questions. They hoped to reel Him in like an exhausted fish and gut Him.
Today the Pharisees' attorney was the leadoff batter, "Master, which is the Law's greatest commandment?" The question appears harmless to us, but it was a ticking bomb. For centuries, the Jews argued this question. They had 600 laws. If it was His enemies' lucky day, the Christ would give an unpopular response. The crowd would grow angry. He'd become history.
Jesus' answer rings out clear even today. You must love God and neighbor. Neither of these concepts was news to the lawyer. Both were taken by Christ out of the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus. But He put a peculiar spin on His response. We see three firsts.
For the first time in Jewish theology, Jesus had taken the two concepts and made them two sides of one coin. Also He was the first to argue that "on these two commandments hang the whole Law..." Finally, He was a complete original in telling His audience one must love Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles were the ones the Pharisees loved to hate.
Jesus had proved to be the Lord of Surprises. No wonder the editors of Time, Newsweek, and the US News & World Report chose to place His picture on their front cover in the same week. He was front-page news in His time and remains so in ours.
The attorney from the firm of Dewey, Cheetem, & Howe, who was fronting for the hostiles, called time out. He found himself holding a gun shooting backwards. Fighting Jesus was unproductive. We cannot beat up on His enemies for not marrying the concepts of God and neighbor. Their inability to do so reflects a centuries old dispute in our Church.
Some Catholics, especially many young, argue, "I come to church to worship God. Spare me the message on the poor. I get that on the TV all week." This is telephone booth theology: just me and God and nobody else. Here they obey the first great commandment and forget the second.
Other Catholics operate on social worker principles. They put out for the poor not because it pleases God but because it pleases them. Jesus is squeezed out of the package. They obey the second great commandment and disregard the first. Such people are humanists but not Christians.
Maximilian Kolbe was a Nazi prisoner. He heard his fellow prisoners badmouth their jailers. The priest, who would be executed by the Nazis in 1941, urged them to forgive their captors. "Hatred only leads to more of the same. Only love," he said, "is creative." Kolbe, now a canonized saint, loved his jailers because of today's Gospel. He had learned that when you look for good in others, you discover the best in yourself. (Unknown)
Karl Barth wrote volumes on God. Still he tells us his definition of God is summed up in three words: One who loves. Since God is a tremendous lover, should we be less? When you fail to see God in people, you come to see others as a lost cause. If you forget today's Gospel, people appear to be unteachable. You become a misanthrope or cynic.
This week give time. Give a friend flowers. Share a cake. Perhaps a phone call. Give hope. Hug a child needing affection. Speak praise to a teen-ager. Forgive an enemy. Use humor to defuse an argument. Smile. Say thank you. (Unknown)
A Hindu proverb sums up the above: "The narrow-minded ask, 'Are these people strangers or members of our tribe?' But to those in whom love dwells, the whole world is one family."
Meditate today on the aphorism that people with a heart for God have a heart for people.
If you find yourself a lousy lover, don't grow discouraged. Many bad lovers are people who did not know how close they were to success when they gave up? (Unknown)
If the elephants can show love for each other, why can't we?
Reaching out and aiding your neighbor is excellent exercise for the heart. (Unknown)