Meditation and Questions for Reflection or Group Discussion
(Exodus 22:20-26; Psalm 18:2-4,47,51; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40)
Loving Others As God Has Loved Us
If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate. (Exodus 22:26)
Do you have children? If so, you’ve probably thought about what you would do if one of them fell on hard times. Maybe you’ve found yourself in this position already! You’d do everything you could to help, wouldn’t you? Even if the hardship is your child’s own doing, you would still want to bend over backwards to help out.
That’s the message behind today’s first reading and Gospel reading. They both tell us that every human being is a member of God’s family. We are all beloved of our Father, and we are all brothers and sisters to each other. It doesn’t matter whether we are well behaved or “black sheep” of his family. He loves us deeply and longs to care for us, simply because we are his. This is why he has a special love for the poor. It breaks his heart to see these children of his go without the basic necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.
Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments are to love God with all our hearts and to love one another as ourselves. These are very challenging commands, precisely because they are so encompassing. He didn’t say, “Love God when it’s convenient” or “Love only the people who agree with you.” No, we are all one family: rich or poor, old or young, educated or illiterate, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, or atheist. Whoever we are, whatever we did or didn’t do, even whether or not we believe in God, everyone deserves to be treated with equal dignity. Everyone deserves to be cared for and lifted up out of any poverty that holds them bound.
Jesus didn’t discriminate in his offer of healing and restoration. Like the farmer who sowed his seeds on all types of soil, he wants us to do the same.
“Jesus, I praise you for your generosity. Give me the same concern for the poor and needy around me. Lord, help me to open my heart and my hands to them!”
(Many thanks to The Word Among Us (www.wau.org) for allowing us to use meditations from their monthly devotional magazine. Used with permission. The Word Among Us Mass Edition contains all the Mass readings and prayers, and a meditation for each of the daily and Sunday Masses.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
- In the first reading, the Lord clearly identifies with the plight of the “alien,” “widow,” “orphan,” and “poor neighbors.” He goes on to say, “If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.” Why do you think the Lord’s wrath is so strong towards anyone who wrongs or extorts these needy groups of people? How does your attitude and actions towards the needy compare to the Lord’s compassion? What more can you do so that they would be more like the Lord’s?
- In the responsorial psalm, the Lord is called “my strength,” plus “my rock, my fortress, my deliverer,” and “my rock of refuge, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” What do these mean to you? What examples in your own life can you give of any of these descriptions of the Lord?
- In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians that they are a “model for all the believers.” What are some of the reasons for this that Paul gives? How would you rate yourself as a Christian “model” to others? What needs to happen in your life to make you an even better “model”?
- In the Gospel reading, Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God with everything. St. Paul says that our ability to love God is a response to his having loved us first. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). What can you do in your times of prayer to focus more on knowing God’s love for you?
- The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. What needs to change in the way you relate to your family or others, so that you can love them the way God wants you to love them?
- The meditation ends with these words: “Whoever we are, whatever we did or didn’t do, even whether or not we believe in God, everyone deserves to be treated with equal dignity. Everyone deserves to be cared for and lifted up out of any poverty that holds them bound. Jesus didn’t discriminate in his offer of healing and restoration. Like the farmer who sowed his seeds on all types of soil, he wants us to do the same.” It is easy to treat well those who agree with us spiritually and politically. However, it is often difficult to treat with “equal dignity” those who disagree with us in these areas. What are some steps you can take to offer the Lord’s “healing and restoration” to those who are in “poverty” and are “bound”?
- Take some time now to pray and ask for the grace to answer Jesus’ call to serve the poor and needy (both physically and spiritually). Use the prayer at the end of the meditation as the starting point.