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30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year A
October 25, 2020
Larry Gillick, SJ

You may want to pray ahead of time about the coming Sunday's Mass. If so, this page is for you. “Getting Ready to Pray” is to help you quiet down and engage your imagination (not just your mind).

Getting Ready to Pray                     

Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem begins: “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.” When we love someone we have some evidence flowing from our interior disposition out into actions revealing that love. Love is shown in actions.

We are invited to pray for a loving, compassionate, unstandardized interior, formed by the personality of Jesus. We are invited to pray, not for the knowledge of how to love, but the wisdom to want to love in all circumstances of our lives.

We pray with the grace received in the Eucharist to live with gestures of personal and selfless kindness. Love can be expressed in the smallest of ways and especially toward the orphans, widows and those in most need.

Some Thoughts 

Jesus is the Divine Invitation to experience what real human life is all about.

Perhaps one might think that being told with strict exactness how one is to love might be more comfortable than being told, well, just to love ones neighbor.

The section of the Book of Exodus from which our First Reading is taken has a huge number of laws concerning conduct within the Jewish community. These “laws” were meant to preserve a religious spirit and order between and among the people. They were all seen as initiated by God, and keeping them was the way to “love” or to reverence God. These “laws cover such areas as thievery, compensation for injuries, sexual behavior, and violent actions done to others or to animals. They are all quite specific and seem to cover every eventuality. One would have no problem knowing exactly what it means to love God, except by keeping each one exactly. Now that might be, for some, just what would make life easy.

Next we hear about lending and demanding high interest. Collateral is reasonable, but compassion must be shown or God’s compassion will be withheld.

Last week’s Gospel pictured Jesus as silencing the Jewish religious leaders with his answer about Caesar’s coin. To save face they ask him a question concerning the Law—which of all was the greatest. It is not quite exact enough to pin Jesus down. As with the question about Caesar’s coin that we saw last week, the Pharisees in this week’s Gospel are trying to pit Jesus against Roman law as well as against their own Jewish traditions.

It reminds me of my first year at St. Norbert College near Green Bay, Wisconsin. I was taking a Philosophy course and could not figure out such concepts as essence, existence and all those kind of things I still have troubles with. Well, in an oral exam, wanting to show the professor that I had some interest in the subject, I asked who was the better philosopher, Augustine or Aquinas. I had heard those names floating around, but I thought I would trick him into talking more and asking me less.

He did me dirt. He asked me my own opinion and which areas I would like to compare and contrast. He, like Jesus, left me silenced.

When we read Luke’s account of the Gospel question/answer session, the Pharisees respond by asking, “Who is my neighbor?” Matthew leaves it more to us, not only about who our neighbor is, but what constitutes loving that person. This is exactly what Jesus is doing by making the answer both indefinite in one sense, but quite exact in a deeper more religious sense.

We love God less by emotion and more by counting the ways God loves us and by receiving that love gracefully. This is the first and greatest “invitation.” (“Command” is a word Jesus used, because of the Jewish sense of “law.”) Jesus is the Divine Invitation to experience what real human life is all about. The Second Invitation is good for us too. It is what real life is all about. When we respond to the First Invitation, then living the Second Invitation is both holy and healthy.

I suspect that you were hoping I could explicitate exactly what it means to love God and to love your neighbor. Jesus left it up to us and so I, too, leave it up to you. Loving God and loving our neighbor constitute one and the same act of faith. That is exactly the act Jesus was inviting the Pharisees to make.

It is his invitation to us as well.

Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering to God.
Ephesians 5:2

Larry Gillick, SJ

Larry Gillick, SJ, of Creighton University’s Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality, wrote this reflection for the Daily Reflections page on the Online Ministries web site at Creighton.

Art by Martin Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go