CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 18 May 2019

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Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time - Love our neighbours without loving God?

Today’s Gospel is set in a controversial context. After Jesus drove out the merchants from the holy place (Mark 11:15-18), the angered religious authorities come with tricky questions, to weigh his every word in order to find some pretext to accuse him and to take him out of the way. 
 
Unlike the previous ill intentioned questions, here is a genuine scribe who attended the earlier controversies comes forward and puts also a question: “Which commandment is the first of all?”
 
Studying the Holy Scriptures, the rabbis had made 613 commandments with 365 negative precepts (don’t do) and 248 positive precepts (to do). Later it became a matter of debate among the rabbis to summarise them into the most essential since the rules were too many. The scribe wanted to get the opinion of Jesus.
 
The answer Jesus gives to the scribe retakes the best-known of prayers of his people: “Hear, Israel. The Lord, our God, is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Then, without being asked, he added a second commandment, based on the book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).
 
Love of people demands commitment to make sure that no one goes without food, clothing, care, education and all that is necessary for life. However, this commitment must not overshadow the duty to God, prayer, Sunday Mass, and religious practices. 
 
This interpretation, fairly widespread, is not satisfactory and it is dangerous. Understood in this way, the two commandments are in opposition to one another and bring God and man in competition.
 
In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “This is my (only!) command, that you love one another” (John 15:17), and Paul says that he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the whole law. The two commandments cannot, therefore, be separated, because they are the manifestation of a single love, as John says, “If you say, ‘I love God’ while you hate your brother or sister, you are a liar. How can you love God whom you do not see if you do not love your brother whom you see?” (1 John 4:20).
 
To love God does not mean to give him something (time, prayers, songs...), but to share his plan for man’s benefit, to receive his love and to pour it out on others.
 
Is there a danger of loving man without loving God? Not at all! If anyone loves man certainly he is animated by the Spirit, because love can only come from God (1 John 4:7).
What remains now is to clarify who Jesus meant by neighbour.
 
Jesus puts an end to all discrimination and states unequivocally, a neighbour is anyone in need, be she or he a friend or foe (Matthew 5:43-48).
 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ 
Claretian Publications
https://sundaycommentaries.wordpress.com/2018/10/23/31st-sunday-in-ordinary-time-year-b-november-4-2018/
Translated by Father John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF