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Friday, 27 October 2017

30th Sunday Year A 2017

30th. Sunday of Year (A)
(Exodus 22:20-26; 1 Thessalonians 5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40)

Dear People of God, we are not quite sure about those questioning Jesus in today’s reading from St. Matthew’s Gospel because St. Mark also gives us this same life-episode and saying from Jesus’ ministry:

(adding only: ‘and with all your strength’, before continuing with Matthew):

This is the greatest and first commandment.  The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Today’s reading seems to say that ‘one of the Pharisees, a scholar of the Law’ was testing Jesus in the sense of an adversary trying to catch Jesus out or lead Him into error, whereas Saint Mark tells us that Jesus’ interlocutor regarded Him as a much admired teacher.

That doubt about who was/is hearing and interpreting Jesus’ most solemn words is at the very core of Mother Church’s truly sorrowful experience in our Western world today, where great numbers of people formerly proud to call themselves Catholic are now openly agnostic or atheistic; or, where perhaps they were less well-informed as Catholics and being still under-educated socially, have just drifted into whatever sect seems to best offer them immediate religious comfort of whatever sort.

Mother Church’s present grief concerns the reception of her proclamation of Jesus’ supreme and central teaching for mankind, which because it is both sublimely spiritual and of fundamental human importance it is now being targeted by the devil, concerning whom Saint Luke tells us that, after having been defeated in the desert and then dismissed by Jesus:

he departed from Jesus for a time (4:13).

Essentially a liar who delights in lying only marginally less than harming human beings and disrupting all human good and harmony, the devil never likes to show his hand clearly; on the contrary, loving to deceive, he presents himself as an angel of light and quickly teaches any disciples he thus gathers around himself to serve his own purposes and likewise to delight in deceit, especially ‘good-willed’ deceit where they claim to be able to love as good as any Christian without, however, serving the God Christians love to call Father.  Thereby the devil seeks both to frustrate Jesus Whom he whole-heartedly hates, and Who spoke explicitly of a first and greatest commandment ever to be accompanied by a ‘second that is like it’, whilst also harming those human beings who are ‘supposedly’ called to supplant him and his fellow fallen-angels as denizens of heaven and who amount to little more than objects of loathing and contempt in his eyes.

Jesus Himself, out of sublime love of and obedience to His Father in Heaven, came/was sent by His Father to love, serve, and save us.  In other words, Jesus in His earthly being and public ministry totally exemplified the teaching He gave us of there being a first and greatest commandment and a second like it, and His own words about Christian marriage are surely totally relevant and supremely important here:

                        What God has joined together let not man – or devil – separate.

Moses had been unique in Israel with his love for, commitment to, understanding of, the God Who Alone saved and was called Yahweh; and Moses had received from Yahweh a unique Law embodying national love of and obedience to their saving God along with individual respect and service of fellow man in Israel, a Law quite unique in the world of those times.  Moses had personally exemplified and manifested both the Law and the Prophets.  Subsequently further Prophets arose who mainly reminded Israel -- then in the process of lopsidedly betraying their covenant with their God -- about Yahweh’s concern for their respect for and service of their fellows rather than for an ever-greater multitude of sacrificial offerings being made to Himself.  The Law and the Temple on the one hand, and the Prophets on the other had become largely at loggerheads in Israel. 

Jesus, the second and greater Moses came to make all things one in His own unique human being and divine Self: beloved and only-begotten Son of the Father in heaven, and our own flesh-and-blood brother and Saviour.

How ambitious therefore was, and is, the devil’s project to separate, divide, what the very Person of Jesus so gloriously manifested, and what His Holy Spirit so graciously and powerfully supports and furthers, as potentially and vocationally one!   Who are the devil’s instruments?   All those do-gooders of today who remember something of the beauty of Jesus’ once-loved teaching while refusing to follow His example of obedience to His Father, their God. They will practice a love towards men which makes themselves feel good, but not a love of God that calls for their obedience!! 

And how can they do this?  Because their ‘doing good’ makes them feel good independently of God!  They feel no need to give glory and obedience to God once they have embarked on the good ship ‘Good will to all men’.  The ‘do-gooders’ of whom I am now speaking are not fools, they are not insincere or hypocritical, they possibly actually love being able to do some good among men and for men, but from a Catholic and Christian point of view they are foolish in thinking that they can separate what God has joined together, more particularly in their attempt to practice authentic ‘goodness’ without themselves being obedient to the God Who alone is Good.

Such ‘do-gooders’ deny that they themselves are subject to the slavery of sin: their good works, they would say, show their goodness!!   They themselves should know that that is not logical thinking, nor is it factually true in so many cases!

Jim’ll-fix-it … a man’s popular public name in Margaret Thatcher’s time … did very much good indeed, but his self-confidence led to self-indulgence, of a gross kind indeed; but that grossness reflected not so much his common humanity as his own distinct personality, for any and every unredeemed man or woman who rejoices in the goodness they do as being a work of their own goodness, is already a slave of the devil, is already being prepared by him to do whatever work he may want of him  … not necessarily something gross as in the case of Jim’ll-fix-it, but something ultimately very indicative of the deepest human and angelic sin, that of pride: I have no need of God, least of all to do good to fellows of my choice!

Let us look back to Jesus’ own experience (Matthew 26:6–12):

Now when Jesus was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to Him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil, and poured it on His head while He was reclining at table.  When the disciples saw this, they were indignant and said, “Why this waste?  It could have been sold for much, and the money given to the poor.”  Since Jesus knew this, He said to them, “Why do you make trouble for the woman? She has done a good thing for Me.  The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have Me.  In pouring this perfumed oil upon My body, she did it to prepare Me for burial.  

St. John (12: 4-5) gives some more particular and pertinent details of the one whom we may consider as the prototype of ‘do-gooders’:

Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples, and the one who would betray Him, said, ‘Why was this oil not sold for three hundred day’s wages and given to the poor? 

Our Church is much divided today, People of God, and that is due, I believe, largely to the fact that Jesus is not being preached and proclaimed sufficiently today, to the fact that His own standard-setting words are not being followed:

The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.

Mother Church’s proclamation is no longer centred on the greatest and first commandment but rather on social, sexual, relations and difficulties which are being emotionally enhanced and ‘stirred up’ to such an extent that they are disturbing her centre of gravity and ultimate identity which will be, and should now be:

You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 
One of the great and burgeoning, so to speak, evils of our day is suicide in both young and old, whether finding themselves alone or accompanied by spouse or friend(s).   In the deepest depths of the human personality there was, is, something missing for such people, and that is the Personal presence of the acknowledged God of Love Who created us originally in His Own likeness and for Himself eternally.  And Jesus is the God-given link, bond between that lonesomeness which is ours of ourselves, and the blessedness of Divinity which is His from ‘the beginning before the world was made’.  Jesus the only-begotten and most beloved Son of the Father, and at the same time our Self-sacrificing Saviour, Lord, and Brother.   Jesus the Link and our Lord, Jesus our supreme Pontiff!

Forgetting Jesus, turning away from, ignoring, Him for whatever human reasons -- for He Himself and His most Holy Spirit are unfailingly available and true -- a man can fill his life with work and, where those works are deliberately chosen as good works, can fill his own personal void with a pseud-divine presence, that of his own goodness or godliness.  That is the best a man-without-God can do.   Others fill their lives with absorbing activities or distracting pleasures, which can -- because of their latent evil content -- very soon wear thin, especially in the young who, because they should, in their youth, normally be experiencing relatively wonderful ideals or aspirations, instead find themselves victims of disillusionment.   There are still others, and these are most potent examples of what I am speaking about, those lovers who marry and  remain lovers throughout their much-blessed lives, but, in the end, or rather at their mutually chosen time, commit suicide together, witnessing thereby to the fact that man and woman though filled with the best that mere humanity can afford them still experience a personal void that can and will destroy them when they reject, refuse, and ignore the Personal presence of God in their hearts and lives.

Dear People of God, we are weak and ignorant human beings who can be and once were deceived by the devil showing himself as an angel of light; that is why Jesus speaks to us today in and through His Church using words that are of crystal clarity:

You shall love the Lord your God with all heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  This is the greatest and first commandment.

The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself.