By: Fr. Gerald Musa

A king summoned the professors in his kingdom to come and write a summary of the whole wisdom in the world. They started work immediately and forty years later they had 1000 volumes of books containing a summary of wisdom. The king asked them to reduce the number of volumes so that everyone, including the king could read more easily. After ten years, they struggled to reduce the number of volumes from 1000 to 100 volumes. At this time, the king further requested they reduce the number of volumes into a book that will only mention the essential points. These scholars succeeded in reducing the 100 books into a single book. At the end, the leader of these eminent professors summarised the whole wisdom of the world into one sentence: “People live, they suffer, they die. The only thing that lives after them is love.”


The summary of wisdom by the erudite professors is similar to Jesus’ summary of the Ten Commandments. All of them agree that love is the greatest treasure in life. Jesus teaches that the essence of life is living in relationship, which consists of loving relationship with God and with people. For the Pharisees the love of law overshadowed the law of love. The love of law over law made a Pharisee to ask Jesus:
Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus 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 neighbour as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:36-40).

From this answer it is clear that Jesus did not mean to abolish or despise what the Torah (law) and the Prophets prescribe. He simply summarised the Ten Commandments into love of God and love of neighbour. Looking closely at the Ten Commandments, one would discover that the first three have to do with the human person’s relationship with God and the rest of the seven have to do with relationship between human beings. Laws are not bad in themselves and Psalm 119 rightly describes law as a path, a lamp, and as a guide leading to God. Paul says, “The law is Holy and the Commandment is Holy and Just and good (Romans 8:2). Even though the law is essentially a roadmap, we must not forget that it is a guide and not a god.

Note that in summarising the commandments Jesus addresses two erroneous approaches to love. The first wrong approach is an obsession of with the love of God, which excludes other people; the second faulty approach to love is when people speak about their commitment to loving other people, but failing to mention or acknowledge God, who is the source and fountain of love.

As a matter of fact, love is not just a mere feeling, but a commitment and devotion. This explains why Jesus talks about loving God with all your mind, strength, spirit and body. No doubt love is a fire that consumes, and the book of Songs says love is as fierce as death (Song of Solomon 8:6). Total commitment to love makes a lover to appear foolish and that is why a well-known proverb says, “You cannot love and be wise.”

In the depths of our hearts we want to love everybody, but we come to realise there are people who are easier to love than others and there are people who hardly enjoy love and compassion from the society. Exodus 22 mentions a set of people who suffer discrimination and are despised by the society and these people include aliens (foreigners, strangers), widows and orphans. A widow who lost her beloved husband becomes vulnerable because she may not have someone to speak and defend her cause; the orphan is in the category of despised people because no one is able to substitute the powerful and tender love he/she enjoyed from the deceased parent(s); the stranger is often in the category of the unloved and a subject of discrimination, prejudice and suspicion. This is because the stranger’s accent is different and basically because he has a different look and different set of values. Surprisingly too a neighbour is also counted among the despised. The neighbour is not just the one who lives next door, but a neighbour is also someone who is vulnerable, unloved, uncared for, despised, and forsaken.

Love is the essence of any true religion. A committed love of God and neighbour defines the Christian religion. Let the words of the Evangelist John serve as food for reflection for us. He says, “If anyone says, I love God, and hates a brother or sister, he is a liar, because the person who doesn’t love a brother or sister who can be seen can’t love God, who can’t be seen ((1 John 4:20).
30th Sunday of the Year A/ Exodus 22:21-27; 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10; Matthew 22:34-40



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