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The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II
Sunday in the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time, Cycle A, 29 October 2023
Exodus 22:20-26 ><}}}}*> 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10 ><}}}}*> Matthew 22:34-40
Photo by Dra. Mai Dela Peña, Mt. Carmel, Israel, 2017.

The enemies of Jesus continued with their barrage of questions to trick him into saying something that could lead to his arrest and execution. After failing last Sunday, the Pharisees sent today an expert – a “scholar of the law” – to test him anew with the question:

“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:36-40

For the second straight Sunday, Jesus not only responded to his enemies’ malicious questions with brief and brilliant answers but also taught them, including us today, with important lessons on discipleship.

Once again, Jesus is inviting us to have a wholistic view of life centered on God by healing the divisions within our hearts that are reflected in our broken relationships as individuals and family, church and community, and nation. How often do we reveal that same division in our hearts whenever we ask that same question 2000 years ago by the Pharisee, “which of the commandment in the law is the greatest”?

Photo by author, view from temple of Jerusalem, May 2017.

After receiving the Ten Commandments from God through Moses at Mount Sinai, the Jews dissected them into 613 instructions with 248 of these as positive laws every individual “should do” and the other 365 as negative laws everyone “should not do”.

Naturally, it was very difficult – if not impossible – for them to remember and observe these 613 precepts to guide them in their daily living so that their rabbis devised ways in which the Law could be prioritized with some categorized as “important” or “heavy” that should be followed more than those considered as “less important” or “lighter” in gravity. For example, laws pertaining to persons like parents are more important than those concerning animals that included about bird’s nest (Dt. 22:6-7)! Problem with this was when they circumvented the Law to give priority to lesser things that disregard the more important ones as Jesus pointed out so often to their religious leaders who have emphasized the sabbath by neglecting the human person like the sick.

Photo by author, St. Anne’s Church, Jerusalem, Israel, May 2017.

Another solution they have devised was to establish summary statements of the Law that could help put it all in perspective like “whatever is hateful to you, don’t do it to others”. Again, like in categorizing the Law, putting them into perspectives eventually led to their lost of essence because in our human experience, when many factors are weighed into our daily life, the way we see things are often narrowed and dimmed; then we begin making excuses and alibis to be exempted from our religious instructions. That is why Jesus “leveled up” the people’s perspectives in their views of the Law by telling them to shift their sights to higher level not just its letters but its spirit and source – God himself like the love enemies and the beatitudes.

Here we find the beauty and nobility of Jesus Christ’s answer to the scholar’s question by leading us all into the very essence of the Law which is love who is God too! Eventually on the Cross on Good Friday just like during the sermon on the mount, Jesus would show to everyone he was not only the fulfillment of the Law but the Law himself when he gave himself in love – to God our Father and to us his brothers and sisters. Today he deepens his teaching last Sunday that inasmuch as we have to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s like paying of taxes, then, we have to give our total self, our whole heart to God because that is what is due to God, our Maker and Master. To give our hearts to God is to always choosing to love God and love others as one loves one’s self.

Photo by author, garden beside St. Anne’s Church in Jerusalem, Israel, May 2017.

The moment we start categorizing or putting God’s laws into perspectives, into our own points of view, then we deviate from God himself and his plans. When we divide, separate and split the laws of God to find which could best suit us, then it becomes a DIY (do-it-yourself) Christianity where we choose laws applicable to us and disregard the rest we find difficult, calling them as outdated and conservative like divorce, contraceptives, and abortion.

In summarizing the commandments into the law of love, Jesus is inviting us today to welcome him into our hearts to let him alone dwell and reign over us so that when we are confronted with any issue and dilemma or confusion in life, we resolve them in the light of Christ which is always love. Letting Jesus reign in our hearts is choosing to find him in the other person we must respect and love and care.

Photo by author at Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, May 2017.

To choose Jesus and his love is to always choose the human person above material things and even with one’s self. And to choose Jesus and his love is choosing his Cross too because he said there is no greater love than to offer one’s self for another. The true sign that we have really loved is when we love somebody more than ourselves like Jesus!

It is difficult and even insane as St. Paul declared “we are fools for Christ” (1 Cor. 4;10) because anyone who loves like Jesus who loves God with one’s total self and loves others like one’s self is crazy in the world’s point of view and standard. It has always been the way of Christianity ever since, always suspected as a threat to the ways of the world because the ways of Christ and his disciples are opposite the ways of the world as St. Paul explained to the Thessalonians “who received the word in great affliction, with joy in the Holy Spirit” (1 Thes. 1:6).

When I was still a young priest giving Marriage Encounter weekends to couples, I used to ask them this question: when husband and wife have an LQ or “lover’s quarrel”, who should make the first move to say sorry and be reconciled?

Many couples laugh, saying it should be the man first while men claim it must be ladies first. Still others reason out it should be the one who had sinned.

My answer: whoever has more love to give must be the first to make the move to reconcile because whoever has more love should love more!

The more we love, the more we are able to love because love is infinite like God. It is the only thing that will remain in the end because God is love. His laws are his expressions and manifestations of his love expressed in his compassion being a personal God relating with us through men and women around us (first reading). His laws fulfilled as love in the person of Jesus Christ light and guide our path in life often darkened by sin and imperfections. Choose love always and you shall never get lost! Amen. Have a lovely long weekend!

Photo by author, Pater Noster Church, Jerusalem, the Holy Land, May 2019.
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