In the Judeo-Christian faith, God in his attributes and characteristics is transcendent, all-powerful, present everywhere, merciful, loving, kind, immanent, etc. As transcendent God, he is the wholly-order, outside of our nature and of this world. At the same time, he is immanent. He cares for what goes on among us. He is closer to us than we are to ourselves. As God of love, merciful and just, he wants us to imitate his attributes, and to reflect his goodness in the world, especially in our relationship with one another. God wants to maintain balance, peace and harmony among his people. That is why, in the Old Testament, he has placed the golden rule to regulate peace and order among his people. The golden rule is expressed in the social laws as stated in our Old Testament reading today. The three groups of people addressed, and mentioned together are the strangers, widows and orphans. Israel had a clear, and strict legislation against its citizens not to do any injustice to strangers. The reason is because they themselves were aliens in Egypt, where they were maltreated. They saw how God defended them against the Egyptians, in order to free them. God takes to the side of the marginalized and the helpless in order to defend them against their oppressors.
The people of God should imitate the attributes of their God, in doing good to all, especially, by taking to the side of the less privileged. In the priestly law of holiness, the people are asked to be holy like their God (see Leviticus 11:44; 19:2; 20:7; 20:26; 1 Peter 1:16). From here, we get a clearer understanding of how we should practice our religion. Religion has two dimensions, the mystery dimension and the moral dimension. Our image of God, our faith in God, everything we believe in, and say about our God, and our relationship with him, come under the mystery dimension. But they cannot be verified until they are expressed in the moral life. Everything we believe in, must be translated into life in our dealings with our brothers and sisters. As we saw last Sunday, we are citizens of heaven, as well as citizens of the earth. It is the same person, who is a citizen in the world, who at the same time, is a citizen of heaven. The sacred and the secular are two sides of the same coin. For us to be good citizens of the earth, we must translate into life, the graces we receive in the Church worship, in our day to day living in the world. By so doing, we make our world a better place for the good of all. For us to be good citizens of heaven, we must first of all be good citizens of the earth. We must be law abiding here on earth, in order to see God in the end.
This is not an easy task. It can only be possible through love. Today, Jesus’ answer to the question of a lawyer, spells out for us what we must be doing to be good citizens of the earth and of heaven. In his answer, Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with our whole heart, with our whole soul, and with all our mind. Also, we must love our neighbor as ourselves. The answer of Jesus here, gives us the core of all his teaching, summarized in the love of God and love of neighbor. The love taught by Jesus for God and for one’s neighbor is summarized by his life, death and resurrection. He showed this love when he carried the cross to Calvary and died on behalf of sinners. His death was innocent, vicarious and redemptive for the salvation of the whole world. He taught us this love when he asked us to imitate the Father who allows his blessings to come upon both his friends and his enemies, the good and the bad alike. He showed this love when on the cross, he prayed for his executioners, asking the Father to forgive them in their ignorance.
In our second reading today, St. Paul makes us understand that the gospel is the work of the Holy Spirit, who acts in and through the word, and the Christ-like example of the preacher. That is why, in his self-awareness, St. Paul frequently holds himself up as a model for his Christians. For him, this is one of the duties of a pastor, to live in imitation of Christ, in which the pastor lives out an intimate union with Jesus in his sufferings, a union that is brought about by the Holy Spirit. May the Holy Spirit replicate in us the life and love of Jesus Christ. Now and forever. Amen