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This Sunday's Programme

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30th Sunday A

Sunday 29th October 2023

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Mt 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had successfully countered the Sadducees’ attack, they ganged together and tried to have a go at him. They sent one of their group, a religious lawyer, to rattle him with a trick question, ‘Master, what is the greatest commandment?’ Jesus answered, ‘You are to love your God with every part of your being: heart, soul and mind. This is the first and most important religious commandment, but wait, the second is just like it, its twin as it were. You are to love your neighbour just as you love yourself. On those two commandments, the whole religious law, yes and even your understanding of the Prophets, depend.’

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 17: 2-4,47, 51

Steadfast God, you are the passion of my life.
You are the crag, the steady rock , the fortress,
the sure ground where I am secure.
Shielded by you, I feel safe, impregnable.
Praise fills me as I am saved from my enemies.

Long life and praise to my God.
Exalt in the God of my salvation.
God gives deliverance to the king,
showers mercy on the anointed one.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, in your wisdom you have given us laws to guide our lives. Send us your Spirit that we may wisely use those laws to come into the fullness of life in Jesus Christ. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

The incident described in this Sunday’s Gospel occurs also in the Gospels of Mark and Luke though they use the story differently to Matthew. Here it occurs in a series of incidents where Jesus’ opponents try to ridicule and undermine him. As usual he turns the tables by taking the discussion to another level and uses their question to give an important understanding regarding the Law. There were 631 laws in the Jewish Torah. It was virtually a full time job keeping them all, which was why a class of ‘religious’ people had evolved in Jewish society. Unfortunately, many of these people despised those who did not faithfully observe ‘all’ the Law like they did. When Jesus befriended the ‘outcasts’ of the Law, he too was viewed with hostility.

Into that situation comes a Pharisee to put Jesus on the spot. The question asked was not new. Others had tried to determine which was the greatest commandment. What was unusual was the way Jesus twinned together the commandments to love God and to love one’s neighbour. The response to love God with all the heart, soul and mind is based on Dt 6:5 and was the first prayer a Jewish child learnt, was the opening to every prayer service and was the prayer with which a devout person punctuated the day. When Jesus says the second commandment is ‘like it’ he was actually saying the second is of equal weight to the first. We cannot have the first without the second.

These two commandments together hold the rest of the Law. Without them, religious law just becomes a bundle of rules to tie up people’s lives and warp their understanding of reality. With them, religious law can become a wise guide helping people discern their way through the complexity of life.

 

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

The Purpose of Law

There were 631 recognised laws in the Jewish Torah! How could a person you possibly keep them? Unless one possessed an excellent memory coupled with an obsessive compulsive disorder, it would be a challenge. How could one balance them up, for given the messiness of life, the laws themselves would sometimes clash? And then what is the point? Does God really take pleasure in watching people jump through hoops? All in all religious laws can be dangerous as faithful adherence, kept for the wrong reason, is likely to produce people, fearful of action and critical of others.

That is why the question and answer in this Sunday’s Gospel are so important. The question, coming from the group devoted to faithful adherence to the Law, reveals that even they saw that there was a problem. The answer given by Jesus puts all law under the service of love. The first commandment Jesus gives presumes that a person has experienced the abundant love and mercy of God and therefore can respond with such consuming passion. The second presumes that a person filled with such love will offer it to all around her or him.

Under this dynamic of love, the mind is liberated from being confined to slavish adherence to rules, to doing the far more creative (and interesting) job of wisely sifting the situation and discerning the ‘right’ thing to do. Law becomes less an adherence to directions that must be followed slavishly and becomes more a recipe to guide a person to living a rich life under the guidance of the Spirit. Thus law should not something constricting life but a guide to living the fullness of life as the children of God.

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

Making Love

It is odd how, in English, there are many single words for sexual intercourse that are crude vulgar or crass but there are no single words that describe it positively. The best we have are two word terms of which the most popular would be ‘making love.’ Those two words give us an insight into what true love is about, love being more than just sex. It is not just feeling desire, getting a physical or emotional high or a warm glow. True love doesn’t just happen – it is made. A couple can be deeply attracted to each other, parents may experience an outstanding rush of love towards their baby at birth, but deep abiding love is made, built up over time, onto a bedrock of patience, with gestures of generosity and fortitude, joy and sorrow,

‘Being intimate’, another term for sex which has a wider meaning, is more than physical closeness. Harriet Goldher Lerner well describes intimacy as maintaining a relationship over the long haul. Just being physically close to another while trying to maintain emotional closeness forces us to face the strengths and liabilities both of the other and of our own selves.

So what has this to do with Jesus’ twin commandments to love? A lot. While we can trust that God’s love streams towards us, we have to learn how to ‘make love’ back to God. This usually entails us accepting that God loves us unconditionally, that we don’t have to earn this love and that we need to be patient with our own failings. When we truly experience that mercy, a power to love like that is born within us. From God we learn how to love ourselves, then we must offer that same love to others. No wonder Jesus twinned these commandments together.

 

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– In James Tissot’s painting  we have a representation of Jesus in discussion with the Pharisees.

The Kiss of Peace by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

Law, laws and regulations have a large influence in our lives. From road rules to Church law we often do things because we have been ‘told to’.

As you go through this week, notice when you are conforming to a ‘law’. Mull on how following this expresses your love of God or of neighbour.

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

When you are at rest, consider the place of ‘law’ in your life.

What laws do you find give you joy and wisdom?
What laws do you find oppressive?

Size up these laws with the twin commandments of Jesus?

Rest in the love of your God.