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The first reading in today’s liturgy, you heard the Lord reminding the people of their own status. And you might say, well, why did he feel it necessary to do that? Because, if you look at the Jewish scripture, you find that it is something that’s repeated over and over again. And if you come to the gospels in the life of Jesus, you’ll find that it’s repeated, but not in word. It’s repeated in action.
And you might say, well, why in making God’s will known to us, why is there such a need to continue repeating this particular direction? And I think very simply, it is because we are a very forgetful people. And that what the Lord says to them in the very first reading. Remember that you once were aliens. Therefore, remember how I treated you. And so you should do the same to others. How did God, God treat?
God treated with compassion. God treated with love. And it is in that sense that the Lord is encouraging – In regard to the alien, but also he mentions the widow and the orphan, and you might say, well, why the widow and the orphan? Well, in the society of that day and to a certain extent in our own society today, although we’ve certainly made some improvements, widows and orphans had no status. They were basically the forgotten, the abandoned. Because your status came from your connection to the male. If you became a widow, there was no connection and therefore you did not exist. The same with the orphan. And so the Lord, through both these words and Exodus. And then again in Leviticus. And then again through the prophets, is reminding us that while we might forget. – That while we might forget – God remembers.
And God remembers those who are most forgotten. Those who are ignored and those who are abandoned. And God calls us to treat them with compassion. And so when they came to test Jesus – and we’ve been listening now to a series of tests in Matthew’s Gospel, we’re near the end. And Jesus has now come into Jerusalem. The tension is building. And so you see that there are these different occasions when they come to test him, to trick him, to try to get him to, in a sense, to make a statement that they can use against him.
And so they come to him – and remember, these were the people who were responsible for the law. They were the teachers. They were the people who, in a sense, oversaw the religious order of the community.
And so they come to him – and remember, they’ve got 600 plus laws that they have developed. And part of how they spent their day was arguing with one another about how you understand the law. Where was the comma? Where was the period? What was the meaning of the word? You put it in this context, did have this meaning, if you put it in that context. Did it have another meeting? I see some of the lawyers here with us. Isn’t that the game that you continue to play even today?
I don’t mean that in a negative way. That’s part of what we do. So they come to Jesus and they say, we’ll catch him, we’ll get him. Because how will he respond to this? And rather than giving them all he says to them, let me tell you what is critical. Love God and love neighbor. What is amazing about his response is that if you go into. All that preceded him. All that God had made known through the various spokespersons that God had through the prophets and through all of the others prior to the prophets.
Well, that’s what God had been saying from day one. That’s what God has been saying from day one. Love God, because we recognize that ultimately, we are all dependent upon God. We are all dependent upon God for everything – nothing is of our own creation. It all is gift that’s been handed to us by God. And so love of God is first and foremost, it’s a recognition. It’s in a sense, a way of honoring and adoring God, because ultimately that’s one of our key purposes.
And then love of neighbor. Why the love of neighbor? Because we recognize the face of God in each other. And most especially those who are the least in our midst. And so Jesus says, here it is. Here’s what you need to base your life on. These two commandments. These two directions, because they will be the best way for you to conform your life to the will of God.
They might say, well, why? Go to the second reading. All writing to the people. What does he say? He congratulates them. Congratulates them for the faithfulness of their witness. And how they witness has drawn others to the faith. Most especially in Macedonia and Acadia. Those are the two places he mentions. But the key word in there is witness. See?
Ultimately, ultimately, God uses us. And I know we don’t like to hear that because we don’t like to be used. We want our independence. We want – I’m in charge. But the fact is that God uses us. That’s why we have been selected and been gifted so that God can use us, use us as witnesses. To the fact that if you live by the will of God, honoring God and honoring neighbor.
You are witnessing to a new reality. The reality of the kingdom of God, and in a sense, you stand then as a witness in contradiction. To human society throughout its history, because human society, in all of its forms, in all of its times, throughout history, has had one great flaw.
It actually goes back to the original flaw of Adam and Eve. It is the flaw of forgetfulness. Adam and Eve forgot God and thought that they could go off on their own, be their own masters. And if you look at human history, human history repeats that over and over again because we forget. And so the scripture is calling us to witness. But it’s also calling us to be witnesses who root our lives in remembering, and remembering the wisdom of God as it continues to unfold itself in our midst.
Let us pray, then, that God will give us the grace not to be forgetful, but to always remember that compassion and the love of God and how that inspires us to action, which makes us faithful witnesses.