30thSunday of Ordinary Time Mt. 22:34-40

I think we all understand that the Pharisees had hand selected this scholar of the law, i.e. a Scribe, to “test” Jesus. The use of this verb indicates attempts of our Lord’s opponents to embarrass him by challenging him to do something they think is impossible or by having him say something that they can use against him. The Jews had 615 laws which they were to live by: they divided them into major and minor commandments . Jesus was asked which of these laws was the most important. Many Jewish Rabbis at the time, considered them all to be equal because they were from God.

Even though the Pharisees had evil intentions when asking Jesus the question as to the greatest commandment. They have done us a good service by getting this crystal clear answer from Christ. He took two scripture verses every Jew knew by heart, namely Deuteronomy 6:5 "Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might." and Leviticus 19:18 "you shall love your neighbor as yourself." This was the first time anyone combined the love of God with the love of neighbor and made them inseperably one. By combining these two commandments Jesus gives a new interpretation to an old idea. God wants us to love him with all that is in us. But to love God is to love one's neighbor and vice versa. It is like two sides of the same coin. This love must be a total love, which dominates our emotions, directs our thoughts, and becomes the standard for all morality.

Obviously, spiritual goods take precedence over material goods. Therefore spiritual goods, whether our own or our neighbor’s must be the first to be safeguarded. No one is justified of putting their own soul into the danger of condemnation in order to save another. This is indicated in the parable of the wise virgins who refuse to give oil to the foolish virgins, for fear of losing their own place with the bridegroom.

The great error that many make today is that this love of God and neighbor is confused with tolerance. This misunderstood philosophy of unconditional love is all too often twisted into something that is tantamount to offering people a license to sin. There are different ways to show love for someone, based on their individual need. To show love to the hungry is to give them food, to show love to homeless and unemployed is to help them find housing and work. But if you want to be like Jesus in showing your love you invite them to repent. The love of which Jesus speaks is different from the warm emotion that we sometimes think of as love. Love is not mere affection, it is service. Neither Jesus nor St. Paul confuses love with sentimentality. The love of the gospel is a love that demands that each of us confronts the truth about ourselves.

Christ came into the world to save sinners. He didn't come to make sinners feel good about themselves or to instruct us on how to blur the distinction between good and evil based on current cultural trends or personal preference. Some people try to justify their sin by saying that Jesus did not condemn the adulterous woman and that He spent much time eating and drinking with sinners. They don't seem to be willing or able to understand why He did that. His words to the adulterous woman, "Neither do I condemn you" are filled with forgiveness not tolerance. She knew her own sin, and He knew that she did. The problem lay in the fact that the stone throwers did not recognize their sins. So Jesus had to deal with them first. But when He forgave the woman notice that He did not say, Go follow your feelings, celebrate diversity, and try not to hurt anyone. No, He said simply, "Go, and sin no more." To the paralytic, He added a further warning: "Sin no more, lest something worse befall you."

If Christian love is not rooted in truth, it is at best, misguided emotion, and at worst a refusal to enlighten a soul in danger of damnation. Like Jesus we must think first of saving souls and not protecting someone's feelings in place of their eternal destiny. When all is said and done we must do all that we can to save our neighbors. For the apostle James tells us if someone brings a sinner back to the way, he will save himself from eternal death and cover a multitude of his own sins