30th Sunday A – 2017
When God made his covenant with his people on Mt Sinai the essence of the covenant was the ten commandments Ex. 20:1-17; Deut 5:6-21. The Pharisees, in the course of time, explained and unfolded the different commandments and came up with 613 laws, positive and negative. It was a heavy burden to observe them in spite of all honest efforts. In that context Jesus once said: “Come to me, all who are weary and find life burdensome, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon your shoulders and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart. Your souls will find rest, for my yoke is easy and my burden light” Mt 11:28-30. All the 613 laws he is saying is just an elaboration of the 2 fundamental laws and laws are subordinate to this LOVE of God and neighbor.
It is interesting to know that both commandments have been quoted in the OT in Deut 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 but they are far apart. Jesus was not even the first to put both command- ments in the same context. The testament of the 12 Patriarchs has two passages that run like this: “Love the Lord in your whole life and one another with a sincere heart” (Dan 5:2). And Issachar says about himself: “I love the Lord with my whole strength and equally I love every man like my own children (Issachar 5:6). What is new is the way Christ places them inseparably together. It is like one and the same coin having two faces. The deeper one goes into this commandment the more one is overwhelmed by the reality that is being revealed. To say that the 2nd commandment is equal to the first shows how close to divinity a human being is. So Paul understood this when he persecuted Christians. He was persecuting Christ. In this commandment a human being really becomes a sacrament namely a sign of God’s presence and existence and visibility. It is a reality check on our feelings, emotions, moods, sentimentalism and romanticism about love. We do not love human beings for philanthropic reasons. We love human beings because God has given them such dignity that even a God was willing to die for them, for you and me.
This is the foundation of any peaceful and happy individual. It is a tragic quest to make one self happy, it will never happen. To be amused, entertained is not the same as being happy. And besides no one can ever make himself or herself happy outside the reality of one’s closeness and union with God. To see this reality is what frees us from our tiresome quest for the love, acceptance, admiration of others. These two commandments reveal to us the essence of God and the sharing of human beings with this essence. Even a God is willing to die for us.
God’s essence is love. Ours is not and that is why we can only love when we unite ourselves to God.
Jesus is warning us that we should always look for the angle of love in every law, in our customs and institutions. One can be pious and at the same time not be holy and devoid of love. As one religious said to the other: You, know I would like you better if you were less pious and more charitable. And in general many christians including religious love form and formality but have no substance. In simple words appearances with no substance. Pious but no love.
It is indeed a pleasant surprise that the moment we love we have found ourselves. The very nature of a human beings according to this gospel is to love one another as if they were gods. And with this act one becomes what one is meant to be. He or she has found their very nature and essence. And then life becomes a joy, we naturally do what we naturally are.