Today’s message is all about love. Our Old Testament reading has Moses receiving the instruction to tell the Israelites not to oppress or molest strangers, reminding them that they were strangers themselves when they lived in Egypt. Instructing them to look out for the widow and orphans, not to exploit the poor and to look out for those in need. Being a message from the Old Testament there is also emphasis on how God will treat those who do not follow His instructions.
The psalm used today emphasises the love we should have for God, how we should recognise God as our fortress our place of refuge when times are tough and how we should thank God with our praise and worship as a result of the love He has shown us.
St Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians praises them, telling them how their faith has been recognised by their neighbours – not through words but by their actions – serving the living God.
Matthew’s Gospel has one of the most famous passages, when someone tries to disturb Jesus by asking which is the greatest commandment. Jesus answered “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second resembles it; you must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets also.” Most of us are aware of the command to love God and love our neighbour, but there are two distinct ways of loving being commanded here.
By loving God with of our heart, all of our soul and all of our mind, it is emphasising that we are to love God with everything we have. God at the centre of our lives, not as an afterthought. By loving our neighbour as ourselves we are being instructed to treat others in a way which we would like to be treated by other people.
So how do we love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind? We have plenty of examples in the lives of the saints; St Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower for example dedicated her every breath to God. She saw it as her mission to “make others love God as I do, to teach others my ‘little way.’ I will spend my Heaven in doing good upon earth…”1 Or St Pio, who constantly prayed the rosary equating holding his rosary beads as ‘holding Mama’s hands’ as he said “In times of darkness, holding the Rosary is like holding your Blessed Mother’s hand. Pray the Rosary every day. Abandon yourself in the hands of Mary. She will take care of you.” 2
These two saints loved God with everything they had, and they have encouraged generations to do the same; both while they lived and since they left this earth by the examples they have left behind.
We are also called to love our neighbour as we love ourselves. We do not have to look very far to see people who do this. Our own communities have people who do so many wonderful things; people who visit the sick, who help at the foodbank, who volunteer for the night shelter, who distribute the Parish Newsletter to those without the internet, who visit those who may be alone; and in so many other ways. We have vibrant communities, and we support our neighbours as it is part of every Christian’s vocation to do.
We are called to serve, to serve one another on a daily basis, so when we hear today’s Gospel each and every one of us has to ask ourselves the question what more can I do to love my neighbour? If we are honest there is always more to do, but if every one of us answers the call then our neighbours will be like the neighbours of the Thessalonians in our second reading, in that they will know we are Christians by our love.
This week a petition; signed by (at the time of writing) over 600,000 people to end child food poverty by providing children who receive free school meals with vouchers during school holidays; prompted a debate in Parliament which ended with our MPs voting against this proposal. This has prompted a further petition which is currently gathering pace to end the subsidies to MPs for their meals in the House of Commons; again at the time of writing over 600,000 people have signed this petition.
In our first reading today we are instructed by God to look after the vulnerable in our Community; I believe our MPs need to heed that message, for as God said in that reading when the poor cry to God, He will hear their cry and those who have neglected the poor will not like God’s response.
Please keep in your prayers this week
- Families who are struggling to put food on their table, that they get the help they need.
- Those who are lonely, that neighbours will reach out to them.
- For those who find it difficult to ‘love themselves’ – may they learn to be kind to themselves and allow themselves to be loved and cherished.
- Those looking for work.
- Our doctors, nurses, medical staff and care workers, unpaid carers and all other keyworkers as the Coronavirus seems to be spreading further again.
- Expectant mothers, that they will have safe pregnancies and deliver healthy babies.
Deacon Tony Darroch, 24th October 2020.
1 St Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul, (TAN Books, Charlotte, North Carolina, 2010)
2 5 Thoughts from Padre Pio on the Rosary available from https://aleteia.org/2019/10/25/5-thoughts-from-padre-pio-on-the-rosary/ accessed 24th October 2020.