In last week’s gospel, the Sadducees tried to trap Jesus by asking if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not. In this week’s gospel the Pharisees, having heard how Jesus had “silenced” the Sadducees (remember the episode about the coin?) decided to test him by asking which commandment of the law is the greatest. By the way, not all Pharisees nor all Sadducees were “villains,” though that’s how they’re often portrayed in the gospel. Many were devout and faithful though some did try to trip up this Galilean rabbi, Jesus, whose answer was, of course, beyond reproach: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
In any case, the question begs reflection. It’s one thing to know the answer to what the greatest commandment is and quite another to examine our own lives to see if we are obedient to it.
In the second reading, Paul writes to the Thessalonians about their “receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers ...”
One could say that we are in a time of “great affliction” having had to adjust to the pandemic since last March. Judging by the atmosphere at “mass on the grass” these last months, I think we have received the word “with joy from the Holy Spirit.” The gospel and first reading give us the signposts to become “a model for all the believers.”
In the first reading, the chosen people are commanded: “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.” The reading continues with a warning against usury and that the Lord will hear the cry of those wronged, and “my wrath will flare up.” I like to imagine what may happen to certain credit card companies...but I digress.