FIRST READING (If you wrong the widow and the orphan, my wrath will flare up against you.)
A reading from the Book of Exodus (22:20-26)
Thus says the Lord: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 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.
“If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner toward him by demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.” — The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51)
R. I love you, Lord, my strength. (Ps 18:2)
I love you, O Lord, my strength, O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. (R)
My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold! Praised be the Lord, I exclaim, and I am safe from my enemies. (R)
The Lord lives and blessed be my rock! Extolled be God my savior. You who gave great victories to your king and showed kindness to your anointed. (R)
SECOND READING (You turned from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven.)
A reading from the first Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians (1:5c-10)
Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and in Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath. — The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Jn 14:23)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord; and my Father will love him and we will come to him. (R)
GOSPEL (You shall love the Lord your God and your neighbor as yourself.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (22:34-40)
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested Jesus by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “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.” — The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“If We Only Have Love”
There is probably nothing that a person can do that can so quickly bring to the surface all of our most deeply rooted insecurities and self-doubts as can watching a few TV commercials. We discover that all of those usually hidden or suppressed small anxieties over “how we look” or “how we feel or smell” spring from a much larger anxiety – one to which every human being ever born is subject. And that GREAT ANXIETY is, “WHAT DO PEOPLE THINK OF ME?” To put it more in the context of a central theme of our readings today, we would ask ourselves, “Am I really lovable?”
All of us need to be appreciated, to be loved. The experience of loving and being loved is the touchstone of human life. It is what makes life worth living, and it is ultimately the only concrete part of our life that does so.
In the Gospel today, Christ speaks to the centrality of love in human life. He says that love is not only the key to a satisfying human life, it is also the only way to be saved.
Love… LOVE…. a word we hear, and often speak nearly every day. GOOGLE the word and nearly 60 million sites come up. Fortunately, it helps to also see that if I GOOGLE the opposite, HATE – only 6 or 7 million sites come up. Some of the most popular songs shared internationally are on the theme of LOVE.
For some of us of the 60’s we have the Beetles, “All You Need Is Love.” For some of us slightly older we have the anthem, “Love Makes the Lord Go Round,” and yet for some others there is the famous – and somewhat revolutionary son of Jacques Brel, “If We Only Have Love,” that was not only a popular song of its time, but a favorite song often sung at weddings decades ago. Bit even now, young couples often turn to a popular song that has LOVE as its theme for their wedding.
The Law of Israel is often erroneously characterized as legalistic and cold. But today’s passage from Exodus paints an entirely different picture of concern for the most vulnerable in society and showing that the foundation of law is LOVE – LOVE that is expressed in the way we treat each other, but even more, how we treat the widow, the orphan, the abandoned, the stranger, those on the fringe of society. It is how we treat these that the love we have in our hearts is truly measured.
The Gospel passage is also very familiar to us – pitting the question from a lawyer, an expert in interpreting the Law to Jesus – on which of the 613 prohibitions or LAW in the O.T. was the greatest – a legal trip, if you will. Well-versed in the traditions of Israel, Jesus quotes two passages from the Shemah Israel in Deut – “Hear, O’ Israel, the Lord is Our God, the Lord is One. Love the Lord, your God with all your heart, your soul, and your might.” and then a passage from Lev. “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
What is astounding in this answer is that Jesus links these two prescriptions – he places love of neighbour alongside love of God. In fact, he insists that “the whole Law, and the prophets [the entire religious tradition of the Israelites] depend on these two commandments.
The great sacrament of LOVE for the Church is the Eucharist as it is built upon Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for us. Today 12 boys and girls from our parish community will be making their First Holy Communion at this Mass. Their parents and religious education teachers have been preparing them – despite quite a few interruptions due to the COVID-19 – for this special moment, and we can all reflect on the Sacrament of LOVE today as we witness these young people receive Jesus into their hearts.
Just as St. Paul was an example of LOVE to the Thessalonians – showing them through his life how to live loving both God and neighbour – St. Paul also unselfishly poured out his life for those to whom he ministered. He applauds the Thessalonians in our 2nd reading for imitating him and the Lord as they, “became a model for all believers.” We pray these young people will grow to be models of Christ’s love.
Jesus reminds us that our world is built upon the COVENANT whose foundation is love. As we are reminded in one of the most famous versus of the Gospel of John, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son among us, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but have eternal life.” Thus the Kingdom of God established through the Covenant and ratified with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross presents to us a world envisioned by our readings today as a world in which we warmly embrace the young and the old in love.
It is a world in which we recognize that, despite our own lowliness, the power of God can work within us to create something marvelous. We will not be limited by the confines of time or space; we will find our place in the vast scope of creation along the with beauty and majesty of the sun and stars. By the grace of God, we can really accomplish great things, “If We Only Have Love!”
Celebrant: As servants of the living God, our Saviour, our rock, our mighty help, let us turn to him in humble prayer.
READER For the Church, our Mother and Teacher guiding us to live according to the two great commandments, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For leaders in nations and governments, that they might love and serve the most vulnerable among us, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That the greatest commandment in the Law may be the first priority of our lives, as we strive to love the Lord or God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For the children of our parish receiving First Holy Communion today, that they too learn to love God more deeply through love of neighbour, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For those who have asked for our prayers and for our faithful departed and the bereaved who mourn for them, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: Grant our prayers, Father, for we strive to love you, as we love one another, following the teachings of your only Son, who lives and reigns for ever and ever. (all) AMEN.