“Adopting the attitude of ‘loving others’ so that measure of our Love for God is visibly seen!”
(Based on Exod 22:21-27, 1 Thess 1:5b-10 and Mt 22:34-40 – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time)
One of the important equipment aboard a ship is a boiler.
This marine boiler is “a closed vessel, in which water or other liquid is heated and steam is generated.
This steam is superheated, under pressure or vacuum, for use, external to itself.”
In an engine-room of the ship, it is highly difficult to look into the great boiler and see how much water it contains.
But thankfully, beside this great boiler, is a tiny glass-tube.
This serves as the gauge (= an instrument that measures and gives a visual display of the amount, level, or contents of something)
When the tube is full, the boiler is full.
When the tube is empty, the boiler is also empty
The level of water in the little tube is an indicator of the level of the water in the great boiler.
This illustration very practically demonstrates the kind of correspondence that exists between the one’s level of loving one’s neighbour and loving God.
The level of the love towards one’s neighbour is an indicator of the level of one’s love towards God.
Love of God and Love of neighbour are two sides of the same coin.
Such are the expressions, sentiments and teachings that are derived from the Gospel of the Day, when Jesus responds on the query, “Which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” (Mt 22: 36)
The Gospel passage opens with the verse, “When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they came together” (Mt 22: 24)
Let us dwell on a couple of interesting viewpoints on this often overlooked, yet a “worth-reflecting” verse…
- The verse says that the Sadducees had been silenced
The Greek used for “silenced” is the word “Phimoo”.
“Phimoo” means a muzzle.
A muzzle is device or a guard, usually made with straps of wire, fitted over the mouth of an animal to prevent it from biting or eating or opening its mouth.
The Sadducees had approached Jesus, as we read in the previous verses (Mt 22: 22-33) to encounter Him on the subject of the Resurrection of the Dead.
They had sought to grill Jesus…
They had desired to put Jesus to the shame…
But the tables had been overturned!
The Sadducees found themselves “silenced” – muzzled and gagged!
They were made silent not out of their choice…
They wished to talk, but somehow they were made to be quiet!
They wanted to fight out, but the answer of the Lord totally muted them!
They wanted to humiliate Jesus with their human wisdom…
… but Divine Wisdom, tracked their evil intentions, and they were made totally silent!
Do we make the mistake to challenge God’s Wisdom and Will by trying to distort them by our own evil manipulations?
Do we try to boast and be proud by taking offence at God’s Word and making attempts to rig and distort His Word?
The result will be that sooner or later, we would be pushed into silence…
… and made to realise that nothing can be greater than God and His Wisdom!
- The verse also says that the Pharisees “came together”
The silencing of the Sadducees would have delighted the Pharisees.
These two groups were at loggerheads with each other, on some theological issues especially the Resurrection of the Dead, which the Sadducees did not approve.
However, on the other hand, the Pharisees would have also felt the rising presence of a greater Enemy – Jesus!
And so, with a wicked mentality, “they come together”…
not to seek a genuine clarification
not to grow more in Divine Wisdom
… but with a clear ulterior motive – of testing Jesus by somehow trapping Him in His words and teachings!
In our lives, do we also engage ourselves in this “Pharisaic style of coming together?”…
… to discuss plans and strategies on putting down other persons or scheming against them?
… to ‘examine the conscience of other persons’ and making them the subject of slander, mockery and enjoying vile pleasures?
It’s in this background that the Scholar of the Law approaches Jesus with this question to test Him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?” (Mt 22: 36)
This man, who questioned Jesus was no ordinary man or any ignorant person.
He was a Scholar of the Law.
Some translations would put it as “a Lawyer”.
He was an expert in the Mosaic Law.
… Like a Scribe, someone who studied the law, interpreted the law and taught the law!
Jesus, aware of all this background…
… the wicked conspiracy that was brewing against Him
… the plot of testing that was hanging in the air
Responds with something immensely marvellous and spectacular:
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind… You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mt 22: 37, 39)
Here was a gem of an answer…
The air was filled with “hateful” thoughts and “wicked planning”
… but Jesus dares to answer with the sublime answer of “Love!”
The Lord was being targeted badly with stones of “hatred, jealousy, aversion and hostility”
… but He powerfully showers back the flowers of “love, tenderness and commitment!”
And that is the essence of the Greatest Commandment that Jesus put forth – Love of God and Love of Neighbour.
Life sometimes hits very hard at us – in the form of we not being accepted by others, in being ridiculed or criticized or slandered by others and in finding ourselves as the subject of hatred and injustice.
… Can we still dare to “love them”?
Life sometimes is very unfair to us, we feel – by not rewarding us with the prizes that we consider, we deserve, in answer to the hard-work we put in… or by not allowing us to enjoy the joys of life and instead being bombarded with tensions and worries
… Can we still go out of the way and live a life “in love and for love”?
Love, as Jesus defines, is not simply about feelings and emotions, as is the popular and the ‘commercial’ understanding.
Love surely has, without any doubt, the dimensions of being ‘a tender feeling’ and ‘an expressive emotion’.
But beyond that, Love is…
… a commitment
… a dedication
… and a decision
that one makes to be faithful – to a person or a duty or a situation!
“Agape” is the Love to which we are called…
… a self-giving love
… a self-sacrificing love
… an other-centered love
God Yahweh reminds us that He is the Anawim God – the God Who stands for the poor: “You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry” (Exod 22:21-23)
And therefore we have a duty to be other-centered:
It is when we adopt this attitude of “loving others” that the measure of our Love for God is visibly seen.
The level of the love towards one’s neighbour is an indicator of the level of one’s love towards God…
… just like the level of water in the little tube, is an indicator of the level of the water in the great boiler in a ship.
Let the words of St Louis, a just and a righteous King who ruled France in the 13th century, be an inspiration for us: “Fix your whole heart upon God, and love Him with all your strength, for without this no one can be saved or be of any worth.”
“Have a tender pitiful heart for the poor, and for all those whom you believe to be in misery of heart or body, and, according to your ability, comfort and aid them with some alms”
“Love all good, and hate all evil, in whomsoever it may be.”
God Bless! Live Jesus!
Quotable-quote-a-day-with-St Francis de Sales (SFS) – “When we see a soul that has raptures in prayer without ecstasy in life…