The Greatest Commandment
Adoration of the Shepherds
(Agnolo Bronzino- 1540)
This weekend’s gospel reading (for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time) recalls another scene where the Pharisees test the teaching of Jesus. The Pharisees ask Jesus to reveal which of all the commandments in the Jewish law is the greatest. No doubt their plan was to ensnare Jesus through the use of superlatives: If Jesus chose one of the 613 Jewish laws as the greatest, then the Pharisees could offer up alternatives and draw Jesus into a lengthy debate.
Pharisaical debate, being in essence legislative and judicial, would certainly involve argumention regarding a hierarchy of the laws. Laws overlap in real life especially when two people break two different laws in the pursuit of harming each other. In such cases a judge must determine which of the two laws are the greater and which of the two people who broke the laws committed the more grievous act, and who should receive the severest punishment. The Pharisees thought that they might draw out of Jesus his personal preference for one of the many Jewish laws and then offer up alternatives so that they might cause Jesus to stumble or contradict himself. This, after all, is the customary method of legal argument.
However, Jesus rose above this snare and putting on the robe of the Messiah he fulfilled the law in his very interpretation of it. Jesus summarized the entire law in two great commandments, the greatest being "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind”, and the next greatest, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt 22 37-39) The Pharisees demanded of Jesus only one commandment. He gave them two. Then he added, “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:40), thus serving up to them the entire law on one marvelously concise, silver platter.
The rigorous minds of the Pharisees were no match for the vigorous spirit of Jesus, in the same way that the rigor of the law can never be a match for the spirit of the law. (Mind you, this is not to say what some have said erroneously at the recent Synod on the Family in Rome speaking as if Catholic doctrine is the equivalent of law and naturally opposed to mercy. For doctrine is not law but revealed “teaching” which is drawn supernaturally from the Spirit which always speaks the truth and offers mercy in the same divine breath).
In his response to the Pharisees question, Jesus first makes it clear to them (and to us) that to love the Lord above all else is the greatest commandment and the greatest human act. The Pharisees should have known this since they already possessed an earlier summary of the greatest commandments given to them by Moses. Of the 613 Jewish commandments, the first three commands of the Ten Commandments, respectively, show the priority for loving God - to always think fully of, constantly speak well of, and perpetually offer worship to: the One True God. These commands, which encompass praise and adoration, come before all else; while the seven other commands of the Ten Commandments grow out of these as branch from trunk.
In the Kingdom of Heaven, though, one cannot love God without loving what God loves - which is all of his creation, especially man whom God cherishes in his divine heart. Thus, Jesus teaches us that it is impossible to wholly fulfil the first commandment without keeping the second greatest commandment - to love one’s fellow man.
Still, the love of man is not as is the love of God which is founded in true worship. It is rather to be established in service and sacrifice in the imitation of Christ. Jesus teaches that his second commandment is like his first commandment. He does not say that the second commandment is the same as the first, or else the first would read: You shall love the Lord your God as yourself. For while it is fitting and good to love one’s brother and sister as one loves oneself, thus treating the other human person with equal dignity, to love God only as oneself (or as one loves human persons) delves way below the expectation of Jesus to love him and his Father and the Spirit with one’s whole heart, soul, and mind. This way of loving God is only possible under the influence of grace, in spite of ourselves and our lower, natural standard of love.
Today, many a Catholic attempts to love God as oneself, only to create God in his or her own image. Such believers act as if they are to love God only by loving other human beings first, and in doing so they give little heed to the full deposit of Catholic moral teaching. By placing their preference for humanity before their reverence for God, they have it upside down or backwards.
Jesus, instead, calls us to put God first; to love him and all his commands which are discovered in revelation and in creation (the natural law), with all our being. Only when this happens first, and God fills our being to overflowing, will we then usher forth with a copious and proper love for each and every human person.
Jesus loved the Lord his Father with his whole divine nature - before all else; and through this act of divine love obeyed his Father in loving us, even from the Holy Cross. This is the way it is to go - not our own way, which consists of loving others first by our own standard and then loving God in the same imperfect way.
Be in the Presence of Jesus: On Easter Day some of Jesus' disciples who knew of his suffering and death on the cross just two days prior, were walking and talking and probably lamenting over the horrific crucifixion of the person they thought was the Messiah, the Savior of the world. They were on their way to Emmaus, a town some seven miles distant from Jerusalem. The resurrected Jesus caught up with them, "but their eyes were kept from recognizing him." (Lk 24:16) They told Jesus of the great prophet who had been delivered up to death, and that even now his body was not in the tomb where his disciples had laid him. They did not undrstand.
Jesus therefore explained to them all the prophecies concerning the Messiah and how he was to suffer and all the mysteries that related to him and their hearts were "burning" inside them at his words and presence. Then Jesus, "took the bread and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognized him; and he vanished out of their sight." (Lk 24:30-31).
The Eucharist is an eye-opener! It is in the Eucharist that Catholics most recognize Jesus here on earth. It is important to note that St. Luke in his gospel states that the disciples recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread and not in the "bread" itself. This is because the bread was no longer mere bread but the same Body of Christ that the Lord fed his Apostles at The Last Supper. This post-Easter encounter on the way to Emmaus was a training session in the Real Presence of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus the physical person vanished, however Jesus the Holy Eucharist remained! It is in the blessing and breaking - the consecration of the bread into the Body of Christ - that the Church was expected to recognize Jesus until his Second Coming.
It takes grace and faith to recognize Jesus in the Holy Eucharist. In the Eucharist, one's eyes are kept from recognizing him, however one's mind and heart and soul burns in recognition. Catholics must pray fervently for this grace and the grace of Adoration, and the best place to do this is before the Lord in the Holy Eucharist.
Come to the parish church of St. Francis Xavier of Acushnet and pray before the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. It is only in doing so that you will come to greater understanding by being in the Real Presence of Jesus, just as the men on their way to Emmaus recognized Jesus, only after he vanished from their sight, in the Most Holy Eucharist.
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Got Evening Prayer? We do! Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evening in the parish church beginning at 6:30pm & concluding before 7:00pm. Please look for more information about Evening Prayer under the above home page heading: Parish Life & Liturgy
The church is open for prayer every day. Please call the office at 508 - 995 - 7600 if you require use of our wheel-chair lift.
All Souls: On the evening of Sunday, November 2nd parishioners and their families are invited to attend a short procession from the parish church to Acushnet Cemetery to pray for the souls in purgatory. We will start at 6:00pm in the church with a Rosary and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament followed by the procession. At the cemetery, prayers for deceased souls will be recited as well as the names of all those whose funeral Masses occurred after All Souls day of last year. We will then return to the church for final Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
The Next Session: for our Adult Education Series will be presented by our pastor, Monsignor Gerard O'Connor on Sunday, October 26th at 9:15am and Tuesday, October 28th at 7:00pm. The presentation is titled: I Believe in One God This session will reflect on the Nicene Creed, the wonderful formula of our united faith that we freely profess each Sunday. All parishioners and their guests are welcome.
Vigil for Life: On Saturday, October 25th from 6am to 6pm our parish will join with a local Knight's of Columbus council to pray and keep vigil across the street from an abortion clinic in Attleboro, MA. We do this in faithful witness to those who enter the clinic that morning to perform an act that is directly repugnant to God and injurious to human happiness, which can only be found in love and commitment. We pray for the women and their children that they will be united in love; we pray for the fathers of these children, that they will be dutiful and protect these women and children; we pray for the workers in the clinic, that they will come to see their work as a destructive act that bears a heavy consequence in this life and in the next; we pray for the world that it will throw all its effort into helping these mothers through material support, adoption, and fellowship. We hope you will join in our cause for life either by coming to pray with us or by praying for us.
SFX Blood Drive: Our 4th and last parish blood drive of 2014 will be held on Sunday, October 26th from 7:30am to 1:00pm. Our total units donated this year is 79 pints of blood. We expect that with your support we will break the 100 mark for the year - our best year yet. Thanks for participating in this very pro-life event.
Recent Photo's & Events
May 04, 2014
St. Francis Xavier of Acushnet is a lively parish with many activities and opportunities for worship, prayer, and community. We extend to you an invitation to our parish family in hopes that you may join in our devotions and our reverent celebration of Holy Mass. Please contact us with any questions you have regarding our parish and living a life in the Catholic faith.
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