Bible Cross-References
by Jason

The heart is the center of our thought life: Jeremiah 4:14, Matthew 15:19

The spirit or the soul is your essence, which will exist even beyond your body’s death: Genesis 2:7, Mark 8:37

Our mind could be our conscience Titus 1:15, Ephesians 4:23

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Inductive Bible Study

Lector Prep

by Greg Warnusz
Lector's Notes

First Reading

When Moses spoke these words the first time, he really got people’s attention. When you proclaim them again, speak as if you expect the same, because you appreciate the stature of the Law you are announcing.You might do this if you want to emphasize the revolutionary character of the Law, as described above: Emphasize the word you every time it occurs. Think of how you would address a child who wants to do something foolish because “all the other kids are doing it.” “And if they all jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?” When God spoke the Law, Israel should have heard implied “I expect more of you than, sadly, I can yet expect of other peoples.” (There would come a time, of course, when God’s favor, and high expectations, would be shown to extend to all peoples, but we’re not there yet. We’re only in the Sinai a few weeks out of slavery.)

Second Reading

Achaia, what is modern Greece, is pronounced a KI yuh, with a long I sound in the second syllable. To decide what inflections to give the pronouns, notice this: the Thessalonians imitated Paul and the Lord, then the Macedonians and Achaians imitated the Thessalonians. That there are three parties (“us,” “you,” and “them, the Macedonians and Achaians,” should be clear to those listening to your proclamation. It might help you capture the spirit of Paul’s letter if you imagined yourself introducing the guest of honor at a testimonial dinner. How positive and enthusiastic would you want to sound?

Visit LectorPrep.org to read about the historical situation, and a theological reflection for each reading.
Intro to Readings

First Reading

In few, if any, ancient societies, did aliens have rights. In few ancient religions did gods care for widows and orphans. The way of life of God’s people was to be different.

Second Reading

Saint Paul greets a community who had received the gospel eagerly and set a good example for other churches. They were all expecting God to bring the world to an end very soon.

Gospel

The scriptures of the Jews contained over 600 laws, of varying detail. It was customary to argue over how to summarize them, and how to weigh their relative importance. Here they are the subject of a contest between Jesus and one of the groups that would later persecute Matthew’s community.

Fr. Fleming
Fr. Hawkswell
Fr. Hoisington
Fr. Kavanaugh, SJ
Fr. Ligato
Msgr. Pellegrino
Fr. Smiga
Fr. John Thornhill, sm
Jamie Waters
and more


Fr. Tony’s Homilies

Overview
1st & 2nd Reading
Gospel Exegesis
Life Messages
Homily Illustrations
Jokes of the Week


Faith Sharing
Discussion
Bible Study

Over 50 questions each week from which to pick and choose.

Larry Broding
Fr. Eamon Tobin
Fr. Clement Thibodeau
Vince Contreras

INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCHURCH FATHERS
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First Reading

commentary

You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. — Exodus 22:20

EXCERPT: They are to practice social justice, especially with regards to the poor and powerless. They are to act with justice because God is just and continually manifests love for them, most especially when they are vulnerable and in need. God’s compassion toward us is the model that must motivate all human behavior towards others. —Fr. Clement

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Responsorial Psalm

I love you, O LORD, my strength, O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.— Psalm 18:2-3

EXCERPT: King David mentions some of the ways he has experienced God in his life: God has been his rock… fortress… deliverer… shield… horn and stronghold (18: 2)… We too can look for vivid contemporary images to describe our relationship with God and the ways in which he has been our refuge today. For example, I have seen Christ described as ‘my umbrella’–a shelter when the storm breaks over us.—Africa Bible Commentary

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Second Reading

You became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth — 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

EXCERPT: Their “lived faith” sounds forth to all around them. People everywhere can see by their lifestyle how they have embraced Jesus and his teachings. — Fr. Tobin

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Gospel

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" — Matthew 22:36

EXCERPT: The possibility of not being able to follow through completely on all of the 613 Torah commandments led the community to prioritize some over others. Choosing certain commandments over others led to controversy among scholars of the law. Jesus responds not so much by choosing one commandment over the others, but rather by explicating the underlying principles that govern the carrying out of all commandments.— Sr. Mary

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commentary

You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. — Exodus 22:20

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First Reading

Exodus 22:20-26

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Three groups of vulnerable people

FIRST READING—This reading from Exodus illustrates that there is an integral connection between love of God and love of neighbor. It especially underlines the call of the men in Israel to care for three groups of vulnerable people: women, orphans and aliens. In those times,

  • women depend on their fathers, husbands, and sons to care for them. If they lose their father or their husband, and have no sons, they are often reduced to begging for a living;
  • orphans are children with no legal male guardians;
  • aliens are those who are passing through the land and those without relatives.

Today’s reading is a strong exhortation to the men of Israel to care especially for the disadvantaged.

Failure to do so would bring down God’s wrath. The words “I will kill you with the sword” are not to be taken literally. Rather, they are intended to convey how abominable it is in God’s eyes to fail to care for the most vulnerable in their midst.

Love of God and love of neighbor, especially the needy, are intimately connected.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

God will defend those who have no one

FIRST READING—There is a section in Exodus which has been called the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 20:22 -23:33). It contains the laws that regulate the relationships of people who are under God’s rule or under the Covenant. We remember that the Covenant was willingly and enthusiastically entered into by the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai out of gratitude to God for being delivered from oppression in Egypt.

The powerless in society were not to be oppressed; God himself would vindicate their rights. Aliens, widows, and orphans, as well as the poor, had no one to protect them.

  • The prohibition against charging interest for a loan was meant to protect the poor, the only ones who needed to borrow in Israelite society.
  • If a cloak had been taken as a pledge of payment for the loan, it had to be returned every evening since the poor had no other covering for protection from the cold of the night.
© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The Covenant Code

FIRST READING—This Exodus selection is from the Covenant Code or the Book of the Covenant, (Exodus 20:22-23:33), immediately following the Exodus account of the Ten Commandments, (Exodus 20:1-21). This law code is set within the covenant relationship framework which God established with the people through Moses on Mt. Sinai. The law code articulates the practical application of the covenant relationship obligations that God desired for the people in their communal interaction.

They are to practice social justice, especially with regards to the poor and powerless. They are to act with justice because God is just and continually manifests love for them, most especially when they are vulnerable and in need. God’s compassion toward us is the model that must motivate all human behavior towards others.

The Covenant Code specifies the obligations that the Israelite community is to have toward those most vulnerable and open to abuse, mistreatment or oppression. The alien, the widow and the orphan are usually grouped together as people who typically have no social, economic or legal rights in a society that is primarily dominated by males and tribal kinship. In such a society, widows and orphans, those who do not have male relations to speak and act on their behalf, are most vulnerable to abuse and oppression. Aliens are usually understood to be permanent residents within the community who have no tribal or kinship ties. As a result they have no one to protect them and no social, economic or familial relationships that they can rely upon. Aliens, widows and orphans were usually powerless and poor, relying upon the goodness and compassion of others.

Aware of such disparity and powerlessness among community members, God’s will and laws demand justice and right relationship. God, attuned to the needs of the poor and powerless, promises to respond when they cry out in their need. God also says that those who do not reach out in compassion and justice towards others in need, will be severely punished, resulting in their becoming poor and powerless.

One example of offering compassion and justice were in making loans.

  • Loans were made not to take advantage of the other but to alleviate economic distress by not charging interest on loans.
  • That meant not taking the cloak or outer garment used by the poor as a sleeping blanket during the cold of the evening.

The directive heard in today’s reading to return the outer garment taken in pledge by evening was to show compassion for those who had nothing else to warm themselves. Amos, the strong prophet of justice, excoriates the rich for sleeping upon garments taken in pledge from the poor (Amos 2:8). They refused to show compassion or act with justice.

God who hears the cry of the poor will respond and bring ruin upon those who take advantage of others. The Covenant Code demands that all be compassionate and just in the manner that God is. This is a powerful message for our time, communally, nationally and worldwide.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. 2017 Reflections2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Videos

Catholic Women Preach
Pauline Hovey offers a reflection on the Greatest Commandment in light of her experiences serving at the US-Mexico border:

“I will surely hear their cry”

I will surely hear their cry.

For I have loved them with an everlasting love. Just as I love you. there is no separation in my heart.

This is how I hear God speak in this morning’s readings. God, who hears the cries of the afflicted, the oppressed, the abused, the brokenhearted. God who hears the cries of the suffering widows, the aliens on unfamiliar soil.

How I detest that word: aliens.

I have heard it so often with such negative connotations. To demean, to inflict hate and prejudice toward an entire group of people.

But the definition of alien simply is “one belonging to a foreign country or nation.”

And all of us know someone to whom that term applies – whether it’s grandparents, like mine, who were once aliens in this country, or the Jesus we worship who had no place to lay his head, born in Bethlehem of Judea, raised in Nazareth of Galilee. Drifter along the seacoast towns of Capernaum and Magdala. Where did he belong?

Over these past several years I’ve come to know this traveling Jesus much more intimately. As I myself became the widow looking for a new place to lay her head. And most especially as I recognized his presence in the foreigners I accompanied at our southern border.

You see, for about five years I volunteered at houses of hospitality in El Paso where we received refugees and asylum seekers, so-called “aliens” vetted and released to us by ICE (immigration and customs enforcement). Most of them were from the countries of Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala. We accompanied these weary travelers on their journey to their family sponsors, to a place of safety, temporary freedom and the hope of life without the constant threat of rape, extortion, harm to their children or themselves.

My fellow volunteers and I – which included both the greater El Paso community and people from all over the country – accompanied our guests with kindness and compassion, and the dignity and respect all human beings deserve. And they sometimes began to feel safe and relaxed enough to share their stories.

There were many widows among them. Strong women whose husbands had murdered – sometimes in front of them – and try as they might, they couldn’t support their children when constantly being extorted by the local gang. Your money or your daughter. That was the usual threat.

So they would flee their homeland, taking very little possessions, if any.

But here’s the thing: these foreigners traveling with nothing or next to nothing – they were the imitators of Christ to me! The ones Paul refers to in his first letter to the Thessolonians in today’s second reading. These people – both women and men – had received the Word of God in great affliction, under terrible duress, nonexistent options, enduring cruel judgments and treatment along the way. Yet they carried the joy of the Holy Spirit within them, to us and to one another. Their faith journeyed with them.

They were – and are – the model for all believers that Paul speaks of. I can say that because of the effect they had on myself and my fellow volunteers. They enabled me to understand the meaning of the two greatest commandments Jesus teaches us to follow. To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and all your strength. And to love your neighbor as yourself.

How do I love my neighbor AS myself? I came to understand that the kind of love Jesus is talking about doesn’t have the restrictions or boundaries we so often put on loving others.

This love is extravagant. It loves without distinction, without placing conditions on worthiness or place of origin.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

One of our volunteer drivers was taking a couple of mothers and their children from our shelter to the bus station so they could travel on to their family sponsors. One of the women asked our driver if she could stop to exchange money. She told our driver she had $20 and wanted change so she could give half of it to the woman she was traveling with – a woman she didn’t know: “I want to give her $10 because I have $20 and she has nothing.”

It’s not an isolated incident. We witnessed this kind of generosity many times.

Our director of Annunciation House often tells a similar story. Once his house of hospitality had taken in a woman who was ill, and when she got better, she agreed to take on a day of housekeeping from someone who’d called looking for a day laborer. When the woman returned to the house after a long day of housecleaning, she had been given only $15 for her full day’s work. She gave $10 to our director to put aside for her and then she gave him the remaining $5 and told him to give it to someone who needed it more than she did.

Whenever I witness or hear about exchanges like this, I feel as though I am living in another world.

Who does this? Who gives half of what they have to a stranger? Or one-third of what they’ve earned when they don’t even know when they will next receive any income?

Who does this? Imitators of Christ.

Such actions make no sense in “our” world with its desire for security and certainty. But in Jesus’ world of reckless, extravagant love, these actions are life-giving. And my “alien” brothers and sisters understand that.

They understand the greatest commandment. And what it means to say the second one is like it. For to love you neighbor AS yourself means to know there is no separation between us. Just as there is no separation in God’s heart. Every one of us carries the Divine within us and therefore can never be separated from the love of God.

Thank God they carried that awareness of who they are and how loved they are. Because they endured such cruelty. And still do.

Yes, the alien, the stranger, taught me what it means to be an imitator of Christ.

And, in meeting them and accompanying them, I understand why God says: “I will surely hear their cry.”

SOURCE: Catholic Women Preach
The Word Exposed - 1st Reading (Cardinal Tagle)
SOURCE: JesComTV (2014)

Commentaries

Life Recovery Bible

Boundaries and accountability

There are certain behaviors that are brutally inhumane and therefore abominable to God and others. God has set clear boundaries in such cases and demands our accountability to them.

The apostle Paul implied that such behavior, which is totally devoid of faith and commitment to God, not only brings self-destruction but also erodes the very fabric of society (Romans 1:18-32).

Complete recovery demands that we refrain from irresponsible behavior and seek reconciliation with those we have wronged.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
New Collegeville Bible Commentary

Justice for the poor is more than compensation

The poignant cases in verses Ex 24-26 (cf. Prov 22:22-23) show a concern for the poor comparable to the “commoner” defended in Mesopotamian law codes. Cloaks taken as pledges must be returned by nightfall so that the poor can keep themselves warm (Job 22:6; Prov 20:16; 27:13; Amos 2:8; a seventh-century Israelite inscription from Mesad Yeshavyahu).

When the family unit fails to provide, the system is designed to compensate. Moreover, justice is more than just compensation for individual loss; it advocates care for the weaker in society who, if necessary, have recourse to God, who will hear their cry.

SOURCE: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken, Liturgical Press (2017),
God's Justice Bible

Treating everyone fairly

Justice is required toward strangers, orphans, widows and neighbors. Taking advantage of them is prohibited by God himself, who acts as a guarantor of their rights.

SOURCE:  God’s Justice – The Holy Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil. Biblica., Zondervan. (2016).
Africa Bible Commentary

Protection of widows and orphans

The widowed and orphaned have a special place in God’s heart.

  • A woman was supposed to enjoy the protection provided by her husband.
  • Children were supposed to be protected by their father.

If he died, his widow and his children were left very vulnerable. God firmly states that he will be their protector and that he will hear their cry (Ex 22:23).

Mistreating them will bring death (Ex 22:24).

  • It is equivalent to asking for one’s own wife to become a widow and
  • one’s own children to become fatherless.

These words should be heeded by those who rush to harm widows and orphans. Far too often, a dead man’s relatives seize the land and property that should go to these vulnerable survivors. God observes such action, and he will judge it.

Meeting the needs of vulnerable people

It is not enough to simply avoid harming vulnerable people. We also need to take specific action to meet their needs.

  • Thus harvesters are to leave some of the crop in the field for the poor, aliens, orphans and widows (Lev 19:9; Deut 24:19).
  • ‘The aliens, the fatherless and the widows’ are to share the tithes with the Levites (Deut 14:28-29; Deut 26:12).

In our day, when so many have been left orphaned or widowed by HIV/ AIDS and so many are displaced by political instability, wars and natural disasters, we are challenged about what we can do to help them. Every believer needs to accept that God wants us to be concerned about the needs of those around us, and then to act on that belief (Acts 2:45).

SOURCE:  Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).
Sunday Readingscommentary

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Justice and mercy for the poor

Our First Reading is from the part of the Law of the Sinai Covenant called the “Book of the Covenant” (Ex 21:2-24:18).  This section of the Law is a collection of ethical and moral obligations that are divine commands concerning the stranger and the disadvantaged of society, including widows, orphans, and the poor.  God commands the Israelites to be sensitive to the plight of the stranger and the needy because of their experience when they were defenseless strangers in Egypt.  He orders the Israelites to demonstrate compassion not only out of humanitarian concern but by divine decree. God addresses the people in both the plural and singular in this passage.  Therefore, God will hold His people accountable as a nation and as individuals.  The vulnerable elements of society are always God’s particular concern, and Scripture consistently revisits this theme throughout the Old and New Testaments.

Exploring the Text

The Book of the Covenant

Our reading is from the second section of the Law God revealed to Moses called the “Book of the Covenant” (Ex 21:2-24:18).  The Book of the Covenant is a collection of divine commands that are ethical and moral obligations.  The main body of the Law in this section concerns the stranger and the disadvantaged of society that included widows, orphans, and the poor.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
God's compassion for the vulnerable

God commanded the Israelites to be sensitive to the plight of the stranger and the needy because they were defenseless strangers in Egypt.  The Israelites’ compassion was to be not only out of humanitarian concern but by divine decree.

In the passage, God addressed the people in both the plural and singular.  Therefore, God will hold His people accountable as a nation and as individuals.  The vulnerable elements of society always receive God’s particular concern.  It is a theme consistently revisited throughout the Old and New Testaments (see Jesus’ teaching in Lk 6:20-23).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus uses this text to set his high standard

“If he cries out to me, I will hear him, for I am compassionate.”

Jesus came to fulfill and transform the Old Covenant Law from its temporal blessings (Lev 26:1-13; Dt 28:1-14) into eternal blessings.  He set a high standard for how His disciples must live in the image of God the Father’s mercy in the depth of compassion they demonstrate towards their fellow human beings as they continue His earthly ministry.  It is a standard that echoes the spirit of this part of the Old Covenant Law. 

Jesus told them: Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged: do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven.  Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap; because the standard you use will be the standard used for you (Lk 6:36-38)

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; Commentary used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
The statement on the billboard was part of a campaign organized by ten Midwest groups of Catholic sisters in 2016 with the intent of having communities and politicians welcome refugees. Billboards were  set up in Davenport, Dubuque and Clinton as well as Wisconsin and Nebraska. “We declare ourselves welcoming communities in affirmation of our Catholic tradition that holds sacred the dignity of each person,” said Johanna Rickl, a sister in the Congregation of the Humility of Mary. The communities involved in the campaign are the Congregation of the Humility of Mary, of Davenport; Sisters of St. Francis, of Clinton; Sisters of St. Benedict, of Rock Island, Ill.; Dominican Sisters, of Sinsinawa, Wisc.; Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, of La Crosse, Wisc.; Sisters of Mercy, West Midwest Community, of Omaha, Neb. and the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sisters of the Presentation, Sisters of St. Francis and Sisters of the Visitation, all of Dubuque. SOURCE: Des Moines Register
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I love you, O LORD, my strength, O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.— Psalm 18:2-3

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Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

I love you, Lord, my strength

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—This psalm celebrates God as the King of Israel.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.

Commentary

Life Recovery Bible

The Lord is our strength

We cannot fight the battles between us and our dependency alone.

Although at times we may feel that our efforts are overcoming the things that cripple and destroy us, we soon realize that it is God who gives us the strength to fight these battles. Once we bring God into our battles, we begin to experience victory in the places where we were defeated in the past. God alone can guarantee a permanent victory.

Sharing our victories with others

The successes that God gives us can be a strong encouragement to others.

In recovery we are called upon to share our victories with others. As we do, we will also be carrying the message of his saving power and love to those who are listening. This may be all it takes to give them the courage to go on. They will see God’s transforming power in our life and begin to hope that God can do the same for them. Because of who God is and what he does for us, we should constantly give him thanks and praise for the way he helps us.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
New Collegeville Bible Commentary

Powerful images to describe God

The psalm opens with a description of God’s might made up of several literary images: “my strength . . . / my rock, my fortress, my deliverer . . . / my rock of refuge, / my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold.”

People who prefer the idea of a God of love and peace will be troubled by the military nature of these metaphors. However, when people are overwhelmed by the circumstances of life and they fear that they will not be able to survive, the thought of a powerful God who will overcome such obstacles can comfort and encourage them.

Praise of God who rescues

The psalm ends as it began, praising God for deliverance, for though it may have been the psalmist who brought justice to those who had attacked without cause, the victory was really God’s, for the psalmist would never have been able to succeed or endure without divine assistance.

SOURCE: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken, Liturgical Press (2017).
God's Justice Bible

Fighting evil with nonviolence

Many psalms are full of war and violence. Here the psalmist, fighting a military battle, suffers no doubt that he deserves to be delivered (18:24), and that his victory is God’s victory. Can such confident militarism be equated with justice? Only if we believe that God is committed to doing justice through Israel and her kings. Given the persistent failings of Israel’s kings, that reality comes true fully only in the future great king, the Messiah Jesus—who uses nonviolent means to fight against evil.

SOURCE: God’s Justice – The Holy Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil. Biblica., Zondervan. (2016).
Africa Bible Commentary

Images to describe our relationship with God

King David goes on to mention some of the ways he has experienced God in his life: God has been his rock… fortress… deliverer… shield… horn and stronghold (18: 2). God has thus been a place of refuge for him. He has brought him salvation from his enemies by offering protection as a shield and by demonstrating the strength of a bull (symbolized by its horn) on his behalf. Whenever the psalmist was in danger, he prayed and God saved him (18:3).

We too can look for vivid contemporary images to describe our relationship with God and the ways in which he has been our refuge today. For example, I have seen Christ described as ‘my umbrella’–a shelter when the storm breaks over us.

SOURCE:  Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).
Sunday Readingscommentary and homily help

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The King’s Song of Praise and Thanksgiving to the Lord

The Responsorial Psalm is a hymn of gratitude and praise that David offered to God “after the Lord has rescued him from all his enemies.” David’s song gratefully proclaims that God is his rock, shield, deliverer, and Savior.  David acknowledges that God delivered him from all his enemies, including his greatest enemy, death in battle.  He declares that he is God’s anointed agent (also see 1 Sam 16:12-13), and attributes his victories, not to his success, but because God loves him and he is part of God’s divine plan.

Exploring the Text

Historical setting of the psalm

Verses 1 and 51 establish the historical setting of this Davidic psalm: “after the Lord has rescued him from all his enemies and from the hand of Saul,” and after David became King of Israel.  2 Samuel 22:1-51 has this same hymn of David’s thanksgiving and praise for Yahweh, his Lord, even repeating the same words from verse 1.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Our response

Our response is from verse 2.  David’s song gratefully proclaims that God is his rock, shield, deliverer, and Savior.  David acknowledges that God has delivered him from all his enemies, including his greatest enemy, death in battle.  He declares that he is God’s anointed agent (Ps 18:51; also see 1 Sam 16:12-13; 2 Sam 5:3), and attributes his victories, not to his success, but because God loves him.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus fulfills the Covenant Promise

It was because of David’s faithful love for God that he received an unconditional covenant in which God promised his “house” (dynasty), and his kingdom would endure forever (2 Sam 7:11-16, 29; 23:5; Sir 45:25).  David’s descendant, Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 1:1; Lk 1:32), fulfilled this covenant promise.  Jesus Christ, Son of God and son of David, rules from Heaven over an eternal kingdom.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; Commentary used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Source: PilgrimTraveler
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You became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth — 1 Thessalonians 1:6-7

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Second Reading

1 Thessalonians 1:1:5C-10

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The “lived faith” of Thessalonica

SECOND READING—Thessalonica is a thriving crossroad city in the Roman Empire. As a result of Paul’s anointed preaching, a dynamic Christian community is established and nurtured. In fact, this small Christian community becomes a wonderful example for many others, a model for all believers in Macedonia and Achaia.

Their “lived faith” sounds forth to all around them. People everywhere can see by their lifestyle how they have embraced Jesus and his teachings.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Serve God and await his Son

SECOND READING—The Church at Thessalonica has become a model of faith, hope, and love to the other Christian communities in the area. Later, the Church will name these virtues the Theological Virtues, since they relate the person directly to God, the Theos.

The enthusiasm of the Christians is literally true: the word means filled with God! In the midst of their afflictions, they are still full of joy. Afflictions, here, has overtones of that suffering that will be part of the final battle between good and evil at the end of time. Paul indicates that their suffering has a meaning beyond the present moment. It is part of the ultimate struggle between good and evil that marks the end of times.

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

A model for all believers

SECOND READING—Paul praises his beloved Thessalonian community for being a “model for all believers.” Their faith is so manifest in their words and actions, that “we have no need to say anything.” Their hospitality and compassion towards Paul and his companions is well known, for they have turned from idols and now “serve the living and true God.” They manifest God’s compassion towards all.

Key to their conversion is the cost of turning away from one’s previous beliefs and practices (idols) and turning toward the living and compassionate God, manifested so concretely in the loving sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf.

Paul praises the community for “receiving the word in great affliction.” While not specifying the affliction, it seems obvious that Paul is referring to the cost involved in separating themselves from former patterns, life styles and even economic and social kinship. Paul himself experienced this in his own turning to Christ.

He praises the community for imitating both him and the Lord, who, in the power and grace of the Spirit, did not let adversity or suffering derail them from being faithful to God in living out the Gospel.

The Thessalonian community is a model for all those communities where the word is being preached. Others praise the Thessalonians for being receptive to the word and living it out in joy even in the midst of affliction. Paul praises them for awaiting in joy the coming of the Lord.

The coming wrath that Paul mentions at the end of this passage refers to the eschatological disruption of the world that will result when Christ returns. Christ’s return in judgment will be a day of wrath for unbelievers but a day of great hope and joy for all who have received the word and acted upon it. Jesus delivers believers from the coming wrath, and so all believers live in hope, despite present suffering and affliction. We live in hope, anticipating the joy of being with the Lord upon his return.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Videos

The Word Exposed - 2nd Reading (Cardinal Tagle)
SOURCE: JesComTV (2014)

Commentaries

Life Recovery Bible

God-centered recovery

The Thessalonians had been restored to productive roles in God’s Kingdom and had gained freedom from bondage to idols because they believed in Jesus Christ and experienced his transforming power in their lives.

This same power—our higher Power—makes all the difference between a doomed do-it-yourself recovery and true, God-centered recovery. When we recognize our powerlessness and entrust our life to God, we allow God’s infinite resources to work on our behalf.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

Sharing the good news of God’s powerful deliverance

As the Thessalonians imitated Christ’s ways, despite the persecution it brought them, they became examples that led many in the surrounding area to experience the salvation offered by God.

An essential part of recovery is sharing the good news of God’s powerful deliverance with others—a natural outflow of our salvation experience. As God delivers us from our dependency, we can give hope to others by sharing our story. We will not only inspire hope in others, but we will also be personally encouraged as we recall all that God has done for us.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
New Collegeville Bible Commentary

The word “Gospel”

“Gospel” in the New Testament never refers to a book, nor does it refer to any particular doctrines. It refers simply to the act of proclamation, which was not “in word alone” but was a matter of “power” and “the holy Spirit” and “conviction” (1 Thes 1:5). For Paul, the gospel always has about it immediacy and living power; it happens “today” (2 Cor 6:2: “now is the day of salvation”) and has powerful effects. In other words, God enables faith (Phil 1:29) and the “knowing of election” (1 Thes 1:4); behind true preaching there is always the loving action of God.

The coming of the Lord

1 Thes 1:10 is the earliest summary of what believers preached and believed. “Awaiting [God’s] Son from heaven” points to the very apocalyptic atmosphere of early Christian experience. Paul and others expected to be “alive” at “the coming of the Lord” (1 Thes 4:15), which is also described as “the coming wrath” (1 Thes 1:10). But for believers this will not mean “condemnation” (Rom 8:1), but rather “rescue” at the hands of God’s resurrected “Son.”

How and when Jesus will come again is an important issue in 1 Thes 2:19; 3:13; 4:13–5:11; 5:23, but later it recedes in importance (e.g., in Ephesians). Such expectation, however—a vibrant awareness of the nearness of God—holds rich vitality for spiritual life and should not simply be dismissed as outdated. Investments in this world (marriage, business) have their own goodness, but their value is better seen in the light of the world to come, “for the framework of this world [and all our investments] is passing away” (1 Cor 7:31).

SOURCE: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken, Liturgical Press (2017).
Africa Bible Commentary

What true conversion looks like

The Thessolonians’ Spirit-given joy in the gospel message enabled them to endure persecution, following the example of Paul and of the Lord Jesus (1 Thes 1: 6). They had become models to all believers in their country and beyond (1 Thes 1:7-8).

The Thessalonian believers had clearly experienced a complete conversion, for they had abandoned their pagan idols and gods, whose worship was a work of the flesh, and had turned to serve the living and true God who was powerfully at work among them (1 Thes 1: 9; see also Gal 5: 19-20).

Today, many so-called Christians have not had such a conversion experience.

  • They continue to practice idolatry and to trust in things like fetishes, money, wealth and spirits.
  • They discreetly consult diviners and astrologists.
  • They practice magic.

Can such people really be said to be disciples of Jesus Christ? Christians have no need to keep turning to idols.

SOURCE: Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).
Sunday Readingscommentary

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Imitating Christ

In the Second Reading, St. Paul wrote to the Christians of Thessalonica that he is proud of the community’s courage and faith. Paul rejoices at the Holy Spirit’s effect on the community through his missionary team’s preaching. The Gentile converts have turned away from pagan idols to follow Jesus Christ and have become a model for all the faithful in Macedonia and Greece.

Exploring the Text

Introduction to the Thessalonians

In about 50 AD, St. Paul arrived in Macedonia (Greece) to begin his second missionary journey that was his first journey into Europe. He made converts first in Philippi and soon afterward in Thessalonica. In both places, Paul and his missionary team faced persecution from Jews and Gentiles.

Despite a rocky start, Paul wrote to the Christians of Thessalonica that he was proud of the courage and faith they demonstrated. Paul rejoiced at the effect the Holy Spirit has had on the community through their preaching. The converts have turned away from pagan idols to follow Jesus Christ. They have become a model for all the faithful in Macedonia and Greece, spreading Christian teaching throughout the region.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Commentary by St. John Chrysostom on this passage

In verse 10, St. Paul makes several critical points about the mystery of Jesus Christ and His kingdom, including Jesus’ promise to return from Heaven.

St. John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople (344/354-407), commented on this verse and wrote: “in a single text St. Paul brings together a number of different mysteries concerning Jesus Christ: his glorious resurrection, his victorious ascension, his future coming, the judgment, the reward promised to the righteous, and the punishment reserved for evildoers” (Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Thessalonians).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Christians wait for Jesus to return

All Christians wait for Jesus to return from Heaven to judge the earth (see CCC 671, 769, 1040).  The Second Advent of Christ is a truth of faith prophesied in Scripture and has been professed by the faithful since the earliest years of the Church (1 Thess 4:16-17).  It is also what we profess in the Apostles’ Creed: “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.”  It was a belief held by the community at Thessalonica, and they were committed to living holy lives in imitation of Christ, standing in readiness for His return!

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
SOURCE: JesusWalk Bible Study Series by Pastor Ralph F. Wilson
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"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" — Matthew 22:36

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Gospel Reading

Matthew 22:34-40

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Jesus places emphasis on love

GOSPEL—Having failed to trap Jesus on the question of paying taxes, the Pharisees try it again. This time they have an expert in the law raise the question frequently asked of rabbis in those days: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

Jesus’ answer combines two quotations from Deuteronomy and Leviticus. From Deuteronomy 6:5, Jesus takes these words: “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength.” From Leviticus 19:18, Jesus adds: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus and the Pharisees do not dispute the importance of the law. Their disagreement has to do with emphasis.

  • The Pharisees, who tend to be legalistic, underscore compliance to the law.
  • In contrast, Jesus places emphasis on love.

Also, the Great Commandment joins together love of God and neighbor—something that has not been previously done. In one of his epistles, John remarks: “How can you say you love God whom you do not see when you do not love your neighbor whom you can see”(1Jn 4:20).

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.
Fr. Clement Thibodeau's Reflection

Love your God and love your neighbor

GOSPEL—Again, the enemies of Jesus (and the opponents of the Christian Jews in Matthew’s community) come at him with another entrapment or snare, which is meant to lead to his death. If he fails this test on the tradition of their ancestors, he will be deserving of death. He will be charged with blaspheming God.

We need to remember that Matthew writes for a community of Jews who have come to believe in Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God. They are under attack from the larger Jewish community which does not accept Jesus. What Matthew says of the struggle between Jesus and the Pharisees and the Sadducees applies to the struggle between these Christian Jews of his community and those other Jews who oppose them.

Jesus has just silenced the Sadducees: He would not fall into their trap about the woman who had married many brothers. Whose wife would she be in the next life? He defines what the life of resurrection is all about. He is now confronted with another of the traditional disputes in the emerging world of the rabbis. Which is the greatest of all the Commandments? Whose side is he on in the age-old debate about the classification and the weight of each of the laws in the Books of Moses?

There were at least two arguments about the Commandments of God among Jewish teachers by the time Matthew wrote his Gospel:

  • How many commandments were there, anyway, in the tradition?
  • And among all these, which was the most important? Which could be used to summarize all the others?

The oral tradition had pretty much agreed that there were 613 commands in the Law of Moses. Now, the problem was how are these to be arranged, organized, classified, and weighed as to importance and consequence?

The “battle of the schools” raged for generations!

  • The followers of Rabbi Akiba said it was, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
  • Hillel had taught, “What you hate for yourself, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole law; the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”
  • Some said Psalm 15 had reduced everything to 11 commands. Isaiah (Isaiah 33:15) reduced them to six. Micah (Micah 6:8) found only three. Second Isaiah (Isaiah 56:1) had two. Finally, Habakkuk (2:4) had it all in one! “The righteous shall live by faith!”

See what Jesus (and Matthew’s community) had to contend with?

© 2017 Portland Diocese / Father Clement D. Thibodeau. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

Jesus combines two commandments from the Torah

GOSPEL—This passage from Matthew is set in the midst of various controversies that Jesus encounters with both Sadducees and Pharisees. One of the Pharisees, “a scholar of the law,” tested Jesus by first ironically addressing him as teacher and then asking, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

While set in the context of a test, it is obvious from other writings that this was a concern among the Jewish community of Jesus’ day. The possibility of not being able to follow through completely on all of the 613 Torah commandments led the community to prioritize some over others. Choosing certain commandments over others led to controversy among scholars of the law. Jesus responds not so much by choosing one commandment over the others, but rather by explicating the underlying principles that govern the carrying out of all commandments.

Jesus combines two commandments from the Torah, stating that the second is like the first.

  • The first, from Deuteronomy, is an integral part of the Shema (6:4-9), the daily prayer and primary confession of the Jewish community. It calls for love of God with one’s whole being — heart, soul and mind. Jesus calls this the first and greatest commandment.
  • Then he adds a second, saying it is like the first. Quoting Leviticus 19:18, Jesus states, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love of neighbor in Leviticus is explicated in a very practical, real and just manner. Key to love of neighbor is right relationship, the Jewish understanding of justice.

Others in Jesus’ day had also linked these two commandments. Jesus not only approves of this linkage, but affirms that these linked commandments are at the core of all his teachings.

For Matthew’s Jesus love of God and neighbor as self are the interpretive key to what the “kingdom of heaven” is like. The final sentence of today’s passage clearly expounds what is essential in living in fidelity to God’s will and purpose: “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” The law and the prophets are synonyms for all of God’s revealed word. Jesus is saying that these two commandments are the lens, criteria and basis for carrying out all the other commandments.

Matthew’s Jesus also expands Jewish understanding of the neighbor.

  • In Leviticus 19 neighbor is understood to be only a fellow Israelite.
  • However in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew, Jesus clearly states that God desires us to love enemies and to pray for those who persecute you (5:43-44).

In other words, the care and concern for the neighbor is thoroughly inclusive and expansive. It includes the entire human family: the loved one and the enemy. It demands not just general concern for the other but very specific demands of atonement to the needs of the other and the obligations to meet those needs. These two passages specify the obligation to feed, clothe, visit and care for the other no matter the circumstances.

These commandments are the core of our living in fidelity to God and to one another, especially our fellow Christians. Jesus’ directives form the core of Christian living and unite in a very profound manner all those who have committed themselves to Christian discipleship.

©2017 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Podcasts

Bishop Robert Barron

The great commandment

Today’s magnificent Gospel should set the tone for your entire life. Trying to trap him, the Pharisees ask Jesus which of the commandments of the law is the greatest. His clear and simple answer is that we should direct all our love toward God, and therefore, love what he loves.

© Word on Fire / Bishop Robert Barron

Videos

Catholic Women Preach

Who is my neighbor?

Life is not fair and we all learn this lesson sooner or later.

We are tested in today’s readings to embrace and live in the world of grace rather than the world of earning and merit. The Gospel calls us to love God with all our being with our heart, our mind and our soul; and, we must love our neighbor as our self to be in right relationship. Both commands are inclusive and equal to the other.

What if that love is not earned or achieved by our standards of merit or laws? In the first reading from Exodus the Lord says: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourself in the land of Egypt.” We are being called to live in the world of grace because our very lives are a gift from our generous and loving God. In Matthew 25:35 we are called to welcome the stranger because when we welcome the stranger, we are welcoming Christ. Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, are some of the strangers that we are called to welcome.

For Catholics this is a moral issue; this is about who we are as Catholics. We are all made in the unique image and likeness of God, and we are all welcome.

Immigrants have an inherent dignity, a dignity given to them by God our creator. As a result of the Incarnation, immigrants are the brothers and sisters of Jesus. Therefore, they have shared membership in our society and our Church as a result of their relationship with Jesus Christ. As a people of faith, we believe in the Trinity. The image and likeness of the Trinity is that we are relational, personal, mutual, inclusive, in communion and an accompanying people.

The question, “Who is my neighbor?” is the question we are asked on a daily basis. Our neighbor is the person God puts in front of us. Our neighbor is the person in need, the one that we reach out to and take responsibility for because of compassion and mercy and the memory that we once were aliens. On Easter Sunday Christians celebrate our redemption and atonement, and we thank God that we are all beneficiaries of forgiveness and amnesty.

None of this is easy when we live in a world of merit and earned standards. The real challenge is to live in a world of grace, to bring about the Reign of God – God’s movement and activity in the world.

Being inclusive, breaking boundaries and challenging laws led to Jesus’ death.  Philippians teaches us that we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom and that there are laws greater than the laws of any country. Yes, laws and secure borders are important but laws can also break people rather than help people. Not all of our laws are pro-life. I have lots of people that say to me, “But Sister, they are illegal.” God does not make anyone illegal or illegitimate. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I break the law by speeding or don’t quite catch that green light. Now, maybe that never happens to you. But, let’s be honest, my reasons for speeding are not comparable to immigrants leaving their homeland. Immigrants, like Mary and Joseph immigrating to Egypt, are immigrating to save their children and because they believe in family, family unity, and because God is calling them to live out their dignity and shared membership.

Why is the law breaking them? Because our immigration system is broken, antiquated and needs to be fixed. And we, as a Catholic community, and in support of the Bishops Conference and their statements on immigration, are called to radical hospitality, to welcome the stranger and to dare to risk a caring response. In the words of Pope Francis, “If we want security, then let’s give security, if we want life, then let us give life, if we want opportunities, then let us provide opportunities.”

Jesus’ mission included liberating the captives and setting free those who are oppressed. This is also our mission as the Body of Christ. Let us pray for all immigrants living in the shadows and feeling silenced and oppressed. If they are sent back to their country of origin, they could be killed, raped, or forced to be part of gangs. Our God calls us to be neighbors who are pro-life and ensuring life. I trust your prayers and support of our immigrants particularly as they are trying to live out the Paschal Mystery right now, of the passion and the cross, let us let them know that there is also a resurrection.

SOURCE: Catholic Women Preach – Sally Duffy, SC
The Word Exposed - Gospel (Cardinal Tagle)
SOURCE: JesComTV (2014)

Commentary Excerpts

Life Recovery Bible

Simplifying our priorities

To simplify our priorities, Jesus narrowed the six hundred–plus regulations of the law of Moses into two foundational commandments:

  • Love God with everything we are and have;
  • love our neighbors as ourself.

To do these is to obey every other law.

A better two-point summary of the Twelve Steps could not be found.

  • When we love God with our very life, we will not want to do anything to disgrace him or make him angry.
  • Loving others should make us aware of the pain others feel when we engage in our addiction; our concern and love for them should make us think twice before causing them to suffer.
SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture

The aim of all divine scripture

The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. Literally, the text says that the Torah and the Prophets “hang” on the double love commandment, as though these two precepts support the full weight of biblical religion in all its various aspects.

No other commandment of the Bible is properly observed if either one of these is transgressed or compromised, for the aim of all divine Scripture is to bring us out of ourselves to love and serve God and our fellow human beings.

SOURCE Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri (2010).
New Collegeville Bible Commentary

Jesus summarizes the whole of the Law

Jesus summarizes the whole of the Law in two commandments (see also Mt 7:12).

The first, the Shema (Deut 6:4-9), was recited twice a day by Jews. It enjoins love of God with one’s whole heart, soul, and strength.

  • The heart (kardia), was considered the seat of all emotions,
  • the soul (psychē), the center of vitality and
  • consciousness, and strength (ischys) denotes power or might.

The second command, love of neighbor, is from the Holiness Code (Lev 19:18), which asserts that love of God is manifest in love toward the neighbor.

The modern Western notion of the necessity of self-love would have been a foreign concept to people of the biblical world. They did not understand themselves in individualistic terms, but rather as enmeshed in a particular family, clan, and religious group. Dependent on others for their sense of self-identity, love of self and love of others are inseparable.

SOURCE: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken, Liturgical Press (2017).
God's Justice Bible

How to work for justice

Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets with two parallel commandments: love God and love your neighbor. In a nutshell, this is how we work for God’s justice. The Pharisees ask for and probably expect Jesus to give just one commandment, surely involving obedience to God. By giving two interlocking commands, Jesus clarifies that true love for God requires practical love for neighbor.

SOURCE: God’s Justice – The Holy Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil. Biblica., Zondervan. (2016).
Africa Bible Commentary

Love is the key to obedience and ethics

In answering [the Pharisees], Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6: 5 and Leviticus 19: 18. Both verses focus on the word ‘love’ as it relates on the one hand to God and on the other to fellow human beings.

  • The first quotation is from the Shema, Israel’s creed, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind (Mt 22:37; see also Deut 6: 5).
  • The second is Love your neighbour as yourself (Mt 22:39).

Israel’s leaders had always held that love was the key to obedience and to ethics. The two commandments do not diminish all the other commandments or reduce them in number, but form the foundation stones on which the rest build.

SOURCE:  Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).
Sunday Readingscommentary

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The Greatest Commandment

In the Gospel Reading, a scribe and teacher of the Law asks Jesus, which is the greatest commandment from among the articles of the Law.  Jesus’ answer is from two passages in the Torah/Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament).   The first and greatest commandment He says is to love God with one’s entire being, and the second is to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  In quoting these passages, Jesus is summing up the whole law upon which, He says, the Torah and the books of the Prophets are based (Mt 22:40):

Exploring the Text

The Pharisees test Jesus

A group of Pharisees came to test Jesus. They selected one of their members, a lawyer who was an expert on the Law, to ask Jesus a question about the Law in the attempt to discredit Him with the crowd. The lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment from among the articles of the Law. According to the secular literature of the time, all the commandments were to receive equal devotion.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Jesus sums up the commandments in two sentences

Jesus summed up the commandments of the Law in two sentences, answering what was the greatest and second greatest of the Law’s commandments.  His answer is from two passages in the Torah/Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament).

  • His first answer, identifying the greatest commandment, is a quote from the Greek version of the Shema, the Old Covenant profession of faith from Deuteronomy 6:5, summing up one’s relationship with God.
  • The second is from Leviticus 19:18b that summarizes the commandments concerning one’s relationship with one’s fellow man/woman.

In verse 40, Jesus says, in quoting these passages, He is summing up the entire Law upon which the Torah and the books of the Prophets depend (Mt 22:40):

  • Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength (Dt 6:5).
  • Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD (Lev 19:18).

In giving His answer, Jesus has also offered a summary of the Ten Commandments.  The first three deal with our relationship with God, and the last seven our relationship with our brothers and sisters in the human family (see Ex 20:2-17 and Dt 5:6-21).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Not all Pharisees remained hostile to Jesus

St. Matthew does not record the lawyer’s response, but St. Mark tells us he was impressed by Jesus’ answer.  In praising Jesus’ answer, the man demonstrated his spiritual understanding of Law and his willingness to acknowledge that Jesus’ answer was correct.

The Pharisee’s honest response prompted Jesus to commend him, saying, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (see Mk 12:28-34).  This passage provides an example of a Pharisee swayed by the truth of Jesus’ teaching.

Not all Pharisees remained hostile to Jesus.  The Pharisees Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Saul of Tarsus, and others became Jewish-Christians who fulfilled the new Israel’s destiny in carrying the Gospel of salvation to the Gentile world.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE):
"The Pharisees and the Sadducees Come to Tempt Jesus"  by James Tissot 91836-1902) SOURCE: Brooklynmuseum.org

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas used in his commentary:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to toggle an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary.

Matthew 22:34-40

TOGGLE BIBLE VERSES

34. But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together.

35. Then one of them, which was a Lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

36. Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?

37. Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

38. This is the first and great commandment.

39. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

JEROME. The Pharisees having been themselves already confuted (in the matter of the denarius), and now seeing their adversaries also overthrown, should have taken warning to attempt no further deceit against Him; but hate and jealousy are the parents of impudence.

ORIGEN. Jesus had put the Sadducees to silence, to shew that the tongue of falsehood is silenced by the brightness of truth. For as it belongs to the righteous man to be silent when it is good to be silent, and to speak when it is good to speak, and not to hold his) peace; so it belongs to every teacher of a the Not indeed to be silent, but to be silent as far as any good purpose is concerned.

JEROME. The Pharisees and Sadducees, thus foes to one another, unite in one common purpose to tempt Jesus.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Or the Pharisees meet together, that their numbers may silence Him whom their reasonings could not confute; thus, while they array numbers against Him, shewing that truth failed them; they said among themselves, Let one speak for all, and all speak, through one, so if He prevail, the victory may seem to belong to all; if He be overthrown, the defeat may rest with Him alone; so it follows, Then one of them, a teacher of the Law, asked him a question, tempting him.

ORIGEN. All who thus ask questions of any teacher to try him, and not to learn of him, we must regard as brethren of this Pharisee, according to what is said below, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of mine, ye have done it unto me. (Matt. 25:40.)

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Ev. ii. 73.) Let no one find a difficulty in this, that Matthew speaks of this man as putting his question to tempt the Lord, whereas Mark does not mention this, but concludes with what the Lord said to him upon his answering wisely, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. (Mark 12:34.) For it is possible that, though he came to tempt, yet the Lord’s answer may have wrought correction within him. Or, the tempting here meant need not be that of one designing to deceive an enemy, but rather the cautious approach of one making proof of a stranger. And that is not written in vain, Whoso believeth lightly, he is of a vain heart. (Ecclus. 19:4.)

ORIGEN. He said Master tempting Him, for none but a disciple would thus address Christ. Whoever then does not learn of the Word, nor yields himself wholly up to it, yet calls it Master, he is brother to this Pharisee thus tempting Christ. Perhaps while they read the Law before the Saviour’s coming, it was a question among them which was the great commandment in it; nor would the Pharisee have asked this, if it had not been long time enquired among themselves, but never found till Jesus came and declared it.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. He who now enquires for the greatest commandment had not observed the least. He only ought to seek for a higher righteousness who has fulfilled the lower.

JEROME. Or he enquires not for the sake of the commands, but which is the first and great commandment, that seeing all that God commands is great, he may have occasion to cavil whatever the answer be.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. But the Lord so answers him, as at once to lay bare the dissimulation of his enquiry, Jesus saith unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. Thou shalt love, not ‘fear,’ for to love is more than to fear; to fear belongs to slaves, to love to sons; fear is in compulsion, love in freedom. Whoso serves God in fear escapes punishment, but has not the reward of righteousness because he did well unwillingly through fear. God does not desire to be served servilely by men as a master, but to be loved as a father, for that He has given the spirit of adoption to men. But to love God with the whole heart, is to have the heart inclined to the love of no one thing more than of God. To love God again with the whole soul is to have the mind stayed upon the truth, and to be firm in the faith. For the love of the heart and the love of the soul are different. The first is in a sort carnal, that we should love God even with our flesh, which we cannot do unless we first depart from the love of the things of this world. The love of the heart is felt in the heart, but the love of the soul is not felt, but is perceived because it consists in a judgment of the soul. For he who believes that all good is in God, and that without Him is no good, he loves God with his whole soul. But to love God with the whole mind, is to have all the faculties open and unoccupied for Him. He only loves God with his whole mind, whose intellect ministers to God, whose wisdom is employed about God, whose thoughts travail in the things of God, and whose memory holds the things which are good.

AUGUSTINE. (de Doctr. Christ. i. 22.) Or otherwise; You are commanded to love God with all thy heart, that your whole thoughts—with all thy soul, that your whole life—with all thy mind, that your whole understanding—may be given to Him from whom you have that you give. Thus He has left no part of our life which may justly be unfilled of Him, or give place to the desire after any other final good1; but if aught else present itself for the soul’s love, it should be absorbed into that channel in which the whole current of love runs. For man is then the most perfect when his whole life tends towards the life2 unchangeable, and clings to it with the whole purpose of his soul.

GLOSS. Or, with all thy heart, i. e. understanding; with all thy soul, i.e. thy will; with all thy mind, i.e. memory; so you shall think, will, remember nothing contrary to Him.

ORIGEN. Or otherwise; With all thy heart, that is, in all recollection, act, thought; with all thy soul, to be ready, that is, to lay it down for God’s religion; with all thy mind, bringing forth nothing but what is of God. And consider whether you cannot thus take the heart of the understanding, by which we contemplate things intellectual, and the mind of that by which we utter thoughts, walking as it were with the mind through each expression, and uttering it. If the Lord had given no answer to the Pharisee who thus tempted Him, we should have judged that there was no commandment greater than the rest. But when the Lord adds, This is the first and great commandment, we learn how we ought to think of the commandments, that there is a great one, and that there are less down to the least. And the Lord says not only that it is a great, but that it is the first commandment, not in order of Scripture, but in supremacy of value. They only take upon them the greatness and supremacy of this precept, who not only love the Lord their God, but add these three conditions. Nor did He only teach the first and great commandment, but added that there was a second like unto the first, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. But if Whoso loveth iniquity hath hated his own soul, (Ps. 11:5.) it is manifest that he does not love his neighbour as himself, when he does not love himself.

AUGUSTINE. (de Doctr. Christ. i. 30.) It is clear that every man is to be regarded as a neighbour, because evil is to be done to no man. Further, if every one to whom we are bound to shew service of mercy, (vid. Rom. 13:10.) or who is bound to shew it to us, be rightly called our neighbour, it is manifest that in this precept are comprehended the holy Angels who perform for us those services of which we may read in Scripture. Whence also our Lord Himself would be called our neighbour; for it was Himself whom He represents as the good Samaritan, who gave succour to the man who was left half-dead by the way.

AUGUSTINE. (de Trin. viii. 6.) He that loves men ought to love them either because they are righteous, or that they may be righteous; and so also ought he to love himself either for that he is, or that he may be righteous. And thus without peril he may love his neighbour as himself.

AUGUSTINE. (de Doctr. Christ, i. 22.) But if even yourself you ought not to love for your own sake, but because of Him in whom is the rightful end of your love, let not another man be displeased that you love even him for God’s sake. Whoso then rightly loves his neighbour, ought to endeavour with him that he also with his whole heart love God.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. But who loves man is as who loves God; for man is God’s image, wherein God is loved, as a King is honoured in his statue. For this cause this commandment is said to be like the first.

HILARY. Or otherwise; That the second command is like the first signifies that the obligation and merit of both are alike; for no love of God without Christ, or of Christ without God, can profit to salvation.

It follows, On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.

AUGUSTINE. (Quæst. Ev. i. 33.) Hang, that is, refer thither as their end.

RABANUS. For to these two commandments belongs the whole decalogue; the commandments of the first table to the love of God, those of the second to the love of our neighbour.

ORIGEN. Or, because he that has fulfilled the things that are written concerning the love of God and our neighbour, is worthy to receive from God the great reward, that he should be enabled to understand the Law and the Prophets.

AUGUSTINE. (de Trin. viii. 7.) Since there are two commandments, the love of God and the love of our neighbour, on which hang the Law and the Prophets, not without reason does Scripture put one for both; sometimes the love of God; as in that, We know that all tilings work together for good to them that love God; (Rom. 8:28.) and sometimes the love of our neighbour; as in that, All the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself. (Gal. 5:14.) And that because if a man love his neighbour, it follows therefrom that he loves God also; for it is the selfsame affection by which we love God, and by which we love our neighbour, save that we love God for Himself, but ourselves and our neighbour for God’s sake.

AUGUSTINE. (De Doctr. Christ. i. 30. et 26.) But since the Divine substance is more excellent and higher than our nature, the command to love God is distinct from that to love our neighbour. But if by yourself, you understand your whole self, that is both your soul and your body, and in like manner of your neighbour, there is no sort of things to be loved omitted in these commands. The love of God goes first, and the rule thereof is so set out to us as to make all other loves center in that, so that nothing seems said of loving yourself. But then follows, Thou shall love thy neighbour as thyself, so that love of yourself is not omitted.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.
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