The Greatest Commandment: Doctrinal Homily Outline for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time – October 26, 2014 (Year A)

widowWritten as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)

Central idea: The greatest commandments. Doctrine: The social teachings of the Church. Practical application: Living Catholic social teachings.

To view Lectionary 148, click here.

Central idea: The greatest commandments

Reading 1 Ex 22:20-26

Thus says the LORD:

“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.
If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry.
My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.

“If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people,
you shall not act like an extortioner toward him
by demanding interest from him.
If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge,
you shall return it to him before sunset;
for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body.
What else has he to sleep in?
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”

  • Moses teaches the Chosen People never to wrong, exploit, cheat, enslave, or in any other way to take advantage of an alien, a widow or an orphan—persons powerless to defend themselves and in need of mercy.
  • Charging interest to a poor person would be taking advantage of him if he borrows to have enough to eat and to feed his family. Interest would just make the poor man poorer.
  • Similarly, it would be wrong to make a deal with a poor person that would take away from him something essential, like the only cloak he has to stay warm.
  • Our own experience of borrowing money, say to buy a home or a car, is much different. We borrow not to survive but to become enriched, so a reasonable interest is permitted.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51

R/ I love you, Lord, my strength.

I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.

My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.

The LORD lives and blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.

  • One person who needs God is the man who has enemies who can harm him.
  • We all have these harmful enemies: our own sinful tendencies, bad men, the physical world, the devil.
  • If King David needed God’s kindness, how much more do we?

Reading 2 1 Thes 1:5-10

Brothers and sisters:
You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers
in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth
not only in Macedonia and in Achaia,
but in every place your faith in God has gone forth,
so that we have no need to say anything.
For they themselves openly declare about us
what sort of reception we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols
to serve the living and true God
and to await his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.

  • Paul and his companions imitated Christ, and the Thessalonians imitated them. The Thessalonians became models to be imitated. So, all the believers and those who could come to believe in Macedonia and Achaia could see Christ in the Thessalonians.
  • People around us are to see Christ in us and through us. By our example and words, we are to proclaim the word of Lord, that is, Christ. We are to become that “sort of people” among our neighbors.

Gospel Mt 22:34-40

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
“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.”

  • The Pharisees were glad that Our Lord had silenced the Sadducees, because they were opposed to them.
  • The Pharisees stood for obedience to the law. They saw lack of fidelity to the Covenant—which on the part of Israel meant obeying the law of Moses—as the cause of the downfall of Israel time and time again.
  • They would also have liked Christ’s answer to the question of which commandment in the law is the greatest. It was fully supported by Sacred Scripture.
  • They didn’t like Jesus’ ignoring their strict interpretation of the law, but Christ’s interpretation was actually more reasonable, for he put the law in service to man, as in the principle, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
  • This general idea of putting man first can apply to many realities—work, the economy, the state, civil law, the natural world—these are made for the good of man; man is not created to serve them.

Doctrine: Social Teachings of the Church

  • The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has highlighted seven key themes at the heart of our Catholic social tradition.
  • The Life and Dignity of the Human Person. “We believe that every person is precious, that people are more important than things, and that the measure of every institution is whether it threatens or enhances the life and dignity of the human person.” This is why the Church defends the unborn, the poor, the sick, and the elderly. It is the motivation for the just war doctrine, and why the Church now opposes the death penalty except in extraordinary cases.
  • The Call to Family, Community, and Participation. We are social beings with marriage and the family as our central social institutions. Laws, policies, and the economy must support human dignity, not undermine it. Through the principle of subsidiarity, “people have a right and a duty to participate in society, seeking together the common good and well-being of all, especially the poor and vulnerable.”
  • Rights and Responsibilities. “The Catholic tradition teaches that human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Therefore, every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities–to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.”
  • Option for the Poor and Vulnerable. “A basic moral test is how our most vulnerable members are faring. In a society marred by deepening divisions between rich and poor, our tradition recalls the story of the Last Judgment (Mt 25:31-46) and instructs us to put the needs of the poor and vulnerable first.”
  • The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers. “The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions, to private property, and to economic initiative.”
  • “We are one human family whatever our national, racial, ethnic, economic, and ideological differences. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, wherever they may be. Loving our neighbor has global dimensions in a shrinking world. At the core of the virtue of solidarity is the pursuit of justice and peace. Pope Paul VI taught that ‘if you want peace, work for justice.’ The Gospel calls us to be peacemakers. Our love for all our sisters and brothers demands that we promote peace in a world surrounded by violence and conflict.”
  • And Care for God’s Creation. “We show our respect for the Creator by our stewardship of creation . . .. We are called to protect people and the planet, living our faith in relationship with all of God’s creation. This environmental challenge has fundamental moral and ethical dimensions that cannot be ignored.” The universal destination of goods means that the goods of creation are for everyone alive now and those who will come after us.

Practical application: Living Catholic social teachings

  • Moses taught the Chosen People not to take advantage of aliens, widows, and orphans and Our Lord taught that the true good of human beings is how we should measure both creation and human institutions.
  • It is good for each of us to review Catholic social teachings to discover, with the help of the Holy Spirit, what thing each of us can do to promote justice and charity. It will be different based on our unique circumstances.
  • First, it is necessary to remedy anything we may be doing that is unjust.
  • Then, it would be good to ask ourselves what we might be able to do out of charity and to try to do it.
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