One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

August 25, 2006

For Friday of the Twentieth Ordinary Week of the Church Year

Matthew 22:34-40

Today in the Gospel, we hear an expert in Jewish religious laws ask the Lord a simple question.
“Which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
There were several hundred obligatory Jewish commandments.
These were generally divided up between the greater commandments and the lesser commandments.
Perhaps anyone could have answered the expert that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with your whole being.
In comparison with that particular commandment, all the rest are relatively lesser commandments.
The Lord himself says about as much.
“This is the greatest and the first commandment.”
However, rather than leave the lawyer and us to understand that all the rest of the commandments are merely secondary, the Lord adds two other details.
First he says there is a second commandment that is like the first.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Finally he states, “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments”.
Elsewhere in the Gospels [Mark 12:28-34], we hear that the lawyer today expressed admiration for the Lord’s answers, and exclaimed that to obey these two commands is worth much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
In agreement and admiration, the Lord tells the lawyer, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”.
Love of God and love of neighbor are above any merely external worship of God.
Indeed the liturgical sacrifices and burnt offerings of the ancient Jewish religion fell by the wayside soon after the historical, personal coming of Christ our Lord.
From the standpoint of our faith in him, this end of Jewish liturgical sacrifices took place precisely because of Christ in whom all sacrifices and all commandments have their fulfillment.
Christ fulfilled the commands to love God and neighbor by means of his own sacrificial and redemptive death on the cross.
His death of sacrificial worship and redemption continues to be present in his Eucharist.
In his death on the cross and in his Eucharist, Christ’s undying love and his sacrificial worship absolutely coincide.
With this extreme of loving self-sacrifice, Jesus’ love for the Father and for us takes on an actual intensity that was unthinkable and impossible in the sacrifices and burnt offerings of Israel’s ancient covenant.
In the Eucharist, Christ himself in his sacrificial death is present— a sacrificial death in which he gave loving worship to the Father and by which he brought loving salvation to us.
In the sacrament of the Eucharist, we have the absolute beginning, foundation and fulfillment of love for God and neighbor.
Between the beginning and the fulfilling of love, there are many steps and points to work out in our daily living.
But we can never do better than to begin and to end here with the Eucharist, the source and summit of love and worship, the sacrament of Christ’s absolute love, the sacrament of his absolute worship.

That God Be Glorified in All


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