A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy



30th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – October 23, 2005


“The Greatest Commandment”



Ex 22:20-26 // I Thes 1:5c-10 // Mt 22:34-40





This Sunday’s Gospel reading (Mt 22:34-40) is a controversy story concerning the greatest commandment in the Law. It is the fourth in a series of controversies between Jesus and his opponents. Today’s episode tells us of another relentless, but futile plot contrived by the Pharisees to embarrass and trip up Jesus. The biblical scholar Daniel Harrington gives an interesting background to this Gospel passage: “The fourth controversy revolves around the greatest commandment in the Old Testament. The questioners are the Pharisees in the person of a lawyer (vv. 34-35). Jewish teachers of Jesus’ time were frequently asked to summarize the law in a brief statement. For example, Hillel summarized the law in a way that is much like the so-called golden rule of Jesus (cf. Mt 7:12): ‘What you hate for yourself do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole law; the rest is commentary. Go and learn.’ Jesus’ summary of the law consists of two commandments that encourage love of God (Dt 6:5) and love of neighbor (Lev 19:18). These two commandments are the threads on which the entire law hangs. With this answer, Jesus proves his fidelity to the Jewish tradition and his commitment to a spirituality that emphasizes the essentials.


The two commandments highlighted by Jesus are really one. The radical newness in Jesus’ retort to the Pharisees consists in putting the love of God and the love of neighbor as one. Harold Buetow explains: “The novelty in Jesus’ answer doesn’t consist in quoting these two texts: both were in Jewish Scriptures. Jesus’ novelty consisted in putting both texts side by side with equal weight, rescinding all the heavy and light regulations that suffused Jewish living. This was new, and has no parallel in all Jewish literature.”


The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, delineate the intimate connection between the two commandments: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. Particular and detailed prescriptions derive from this first commandment written in the Law (Dt 6:5). But all together, they can neither limit nor even foresee all concrete applications. To love – with all one’s heart, with all one’s soul, and with all one’s mind – has nothing to do with discharging a series of predetermined obligations. Love is constant attention to the other; it is inventive … The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself … The second commandment, which is like the first, must be understood and practiced in the same perspective as the first. Doing what is contrary to our neighbor’s good, in any domain whatever, never corresponds to God’s will, to the love we owe him.”



According to the authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, Jesus’ answer to the lawyer asking him about the greatest commandment is also a revelation concerning Father, Son, and Spirit: “The Father, above us, nobody has ever seen; the Son became our brother through his incarnation and we find him in our neighbor; the Spirit dwells in our hearts. Father, Son, and Spirit are one in the indivisible Trinity. It is impossible to find the Father in prayer and the Spirit in the secret of our hearts if we do not recognize and serve the Son in the brothers and sisters with whom he identifies himself.


St. Teresa of Avila asserts that the love of neighbor is a sure sign of the love of God: “The Lord asks only two things of us: love for his Majesty and love for our neighbor. It is for these two virtues that we must strive, and if we attain them perfectly we are doing his will and so shall be united with him … The surest sign that we are keeping these two commandments is, I think, that we should really be loving our neighbor; for we cannot be sure if we are loving God, although we may have good reasons for believing that we are, but we can know quite well if we are loving our neighbor. And be certain that, the farther advanced you find you are in this, the greater the love you will have for God.”


Finally, St. Teresa of Avila exhorts us to ask from God the grace of perfect love of neighbor, a love that could be sacrificial: “So ask our Lord to grant you this perfect love for your neighbor, and allow his Majesty to work, and, if you use your best endeavors and strive after this in every way that you can, he will give you more even than you can desire. If the opportunity presents itself, too, try to shoulder some trial in order to relieve your neighbor of it. Do not suppose that it will cost you nothing or that you will find it all done for you. Think what the love which our Spouse had for us cost him, when, in order to redeem us from death, he died such a grievous death as the death on the cross.”





by Warren Padilla  PACEM

(Member: Pastoral Assistance and Community Education Mission)



            Can you still remember your emotions when you first fell in love? What was your reaction? Didn’t you feel so excited and high, thinking about your beloved? You spent sleepless nights dreaming of being with your sweetheart. Oh, how love can be the most exciting thing in the world! If there is anything that makes a person so excited, it is love.       

In like manner, there is nothing in the Christian life that is as exciting as the life of holiness. It can be said that the holiest people are the most excited people in the world. Wouldn’t you like to be excited, the way saints are? Well, be in love. If you love your fellowman the way Christ loves, you will be amazed how interesting life can be. Then the other blessings of God that you need will flow like a river into your life. That is why in today’s Gospel Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?”

            Jesus answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind. This is greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well.”

            A Christian can be considered obedient to God only if he obeys first and foremost, the greatest commandment of God. This is the foundation of holiness, the first thing that makes him pleasing to God. On the other hand, the unwillingness of a person to live up to this great commandment equally becomes the basis for his condemnation – the greatest failure he can ever commit.

            It is impossible for a Christian to reconcile hatred and ill feeling with his/her love of God and neighbor. You can never be with God if you have in your heart feelings of remorse, indifference, resentment and jealousy. You can never please God while trying to avoid somebody who has caused you trouble. There is no such thing as loving the Lord, when at the same time you bear grudges towards a certain person. The happiest people in the world are those Christians who are in love with God and with their fellowmen. In other words, loving God and hating your fellowman can never go together. You have to be filled with love towards one another in order to be with God. A Christian then is a person of love. The more in love you are, the holier you become.





A.    Do we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind? Do we love him with everything we have: a love that is whole-hearted, dynamic, and carried out with conviction, courage and commitment?


B.     How do we carry out the fraternal and social aspect of the divine command to love? Do we love our neighbor as ourself? Do we see the intimate connection between our faith in God and our relationship with our neighbor? Do we realize that it is really when we love God that human beings become deeply lovable?


C.     In humility, do we ask the Lord God to grant us this perfect love of neighbor? Do we endeavor to shoulder some trial in order to relieve our neighbor of it? Do we treasure the love that our Spouse had for us when he died a grievous death on the cross to save us?



Leader: Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

Assembly: “This is my prayer to thee, my Lord – strike, strike at the penury in my heart. Give me strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might, and give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.” (Rabindranath Tagore)


Leader: Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

Assembly: “Grant me to recognize in other men, Lord God, the radiance of your face.” (Teilhard de Chardin)


Leader: Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37, 39).

Assembly: “Give us patience and fortitude to put self aside for you in the most unlikely people: to know that every man’s and any man’s suffering is our own first business, for which we must be willing to go out of our way and to leave our own interests.” (Caryll Houselander)





            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.


            “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind …You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22:37, 39)





A.    ACTION PLAN: Pray for the grace of perfect love for our neighbor. Offer a concrete act of charity on behalf of the poor, the marginalized and the lonely, and the victims of man-made and natural calamities.

B.     ACTION PLAN: That we may actualize fully God’s commandment of love and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 48): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.




Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM






60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

Go back