Thirtieth Sunday of the Year Exodus 22: 20-26; 1 Thessalonians I: 5-10; Matthew 22: 34-40
Loaw, at its very best, expresses and safeuards the aspirations of a people. As such it is not an imposition. It is a way of life, both safeguarding and enabling its subjects to grow to the fullness of their potential. Because we are human, we can use law to restrict the human spirit, to control and even deny all that is best in us. Jesus frequently criticised this tendency in the scribes and Pharisees.
, Today's gospel is a perfect example. A seemingly innocent question sought to frustrate Jesus in the fine print of the law. " Master, which is the greatest commandment of the law?" Jesus refused to be drawn into the fine print. Instead he set before the Pharisees the vision that had always stood at the heart of the law of Moses and the gospel that he preached. " You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. The second resembles it: you must love your neighbour as yourself."
Jesus never intended to say that this was the only law that guides our conduct. What he set before us is the vision of what we can be, and what must be expressed in every law that seeks to regulate our faith and our society. At the heart of this vision is a living communion, a fellowship of mind, heart and spirit which binds us to God and to each other.
From the beginning this had been the vision that had guided the law of Isi-ael. The God who had heard the cry of his people, who had set them fire, expected no less from his own people. Those who now lived so freely in the presence of God could not themselves be involved in the enslavement of others.
"You must not molest the stranger or oppress him, for you lived as strangers in the land of Egypt. You must not be harsh with the widow, or with the orphan; if you are harsh with them they will surely cry out to me, and be sure that I shall hear their cry."
These ancient words, summarized in the single command of Jesus that we should love God and our neighbour as ourselves, have profound implications for today's society. In a rapidly shrinking world we cannot legislate to safeguard our own well-being at the expense of our neighbour. The law of Moses, enshrining the ideal that the rich can never grow strong at the expense of the poor, condemned the interest that imprisons the poor. Because the cloak was all that a poor man had, it could never be retained as surety. While much'of the world lives with plenty, many nations live with the crippling debt whose interest services the well-being of the few. The rich nations have it in their power to imprison not only the cloak of the poor man, but the destiny of whole nations. We cannot stand aside from this debate, for we are a people whose very existence is founded on the love of God and neighbour. In our parishes, our places of work and the corridors of power, there can be but one criterion. What serves that living communion to which we are called? What enhances the unbroken bond uniting us to God and to each other? What sacrifices are we willing to make to promote and safeguard that communion?
We live in a world where violence simmers below the surface of our seemingly civilised society. • An unreasoned reaction to that violence often engenders further violence. A reaction rooted in the conviction that we belong together looks to heal the hurt that nurtures violence.