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October 22, 1993     The Message
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October 22, 1993

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_October 22, 1993 I The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana III IIII I 9 -- Commentary -- The great commandment: Love of God, love of neighbor Gospel commentary for Oc. tober 24, 1993, Thirtieth Sun- day, Ordinary Time, Cycle A. Matthew 22:34.40. The confrontation between Jesus and his opponents in the GOspe! of Matthew continues. Today s question is the third in a series of three in which there is an attempt to discredit Jesus. This, at least, is how Mattlew sees the sit- uation. Matthew is using the i By FATHER DON DILGER MGoSpel of Mark as his model. In COLUMNIST ark a scribe, who seems to be endly to Jesus, approaches with e question about the greatest commandment. Ever intent on discrediting the Pharisees, Matthew changes the whole tone of the encounter between Jesus and the scribe in Mark The friendly en- counter and discussion in Mark has been changed by Matthew into a plot of the Pharisees in which one of their number is sent to test Jesus. The episode has been changed from a discussion into confrontation. The two preceding confrontations in Matthew :tcred n the question about whether or not Jew- ,uzens of Palestine were to pay taxes to the ::r._ment of Rome occupying their country and a rs:Une about the resurrection of the dead. The end bv t tin was brought by the Pharisees, the sec- .... J ae Sadducees. The third uestion is now t'-csented by a la er re r q ar lSees: WCh" - wy p esentmg all the Ph - law, lea ]s the great commandment in the Like the other two questions, this was a cur- topic of discussion among Jewish scholars and 1 613 distinct commandments in the Law of Moses. They subdivided these commandments into 248 pos- itive commandments (Thou shalt.. .), and 365 negative (Thou shalt not .. ). The commandments were fur- ther divided into light and heavy depending on the seriousness of the matter. Discussion centered on which of all these commandments was the "heaviest" or greatest. Which commandment, when ob- served, fulfills all the other com- mandments? On which one com- mandment do all the others depend? Thus the question was phrased in various ways. One answer to this question in the time of Jesus was a form of the Golden Rule: "Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole law. The rest is commentary. Go and learn." This was the answer of Hillel, a great Jew- ish teacher of the first century. Another great teacher, Philo of Alexandria, came very close to the answer given by Jesus: "Among the great number of particular propositions (studied in Sabbath schools) two.., stand out as preeminent topics: one of duty toward God in piety and holiness, one of duty toward human beings in generosity and justice." Jesus answers the question by quoting from the great prayer of praise offered by every believ- ing Jew: "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, your whole soul, and your whole mind." This he calls the great and the first com- mandment. Then he adds to this prayer of praise a commandment if equal value: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Like any good teacher of his time Jesus went directly to the Scriptures by quot- ing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. In theological development traced through the Scriptures a neighbor was at first only a fellow- Jew. Then neighborly love was extended to non- Jews living among the Jews. The gospels tell us that Jesus' view was that neighborly love is to be extended to all human beings, even enemies. Else- where in the New Testament we read: "Owe no one anything except to love one another; for those who love their neighbor have fulfilled the law.' Every commandment, writes Paul in Romans 13:9, is summed up in this sentence: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The author of the First Let- ter of John sees an intimate connection between love of God and love of neighbor: "Those who say they love GOd yet hate their neighbor are liars." Paul, Matthew, and John wrote more about love of neighbor than any other New Testament authors. Examination of their thoughts shows that these three had great trouble practicing love of neighbor. Paul curses his enemies. Matthew re- peatedly denounces all Jewish religious leaders. John forbids even speaking to anyone who dis- agrees with him. They struggled as we do. In preaching to others they also preached to them- selves as we do. To love God and all others in the abstract is easy, but to love GOd in concretely showing love to others who have wronged us, that is the problem. But the Scriptures do not compro- mise: "Those who hate others are liars, for those who do not love their sisters and brothers whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen." 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