30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this
discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that
1st Reading - Exodus 22:20-26
Like his forebears, Abraham and Isaac, Jacob led a semi-nomadic
existence in Canaan. He was forced by a severe famine to emigrate with
his entire family to Egypt, where they settled around the beginning of
the eighteenth century before Christ.
Over the next 400 years the Scriptures tell us nothing about the stay
of the Jews in Egypt. God makes no revelation during this period. All
we know is that by the end of it the Hebrews had become a numerous,
strong, hardworking people; so much so that the Egyptians, growing
afraid of them, forced them into slavery.
The book of Exodus (which means “leaving”) is a
continuation of the story of Genesis. The fact that it takes its name
from the Israelites’ going out of Egypt shows the importance of
this episode in the life of Israel.
Although this book takes the form of a popular narrative, easy for the
people to understand, it also contains important religious teachings.
The episodes in this history obviously involve special divine
intervention: there is no other explanation for the liberation of
Israel or the crossing of the Red Sea or its survival for so long in
As we approach our reading today we find ourselves with the Israelites
at the base of Mount Sinai. God has offered a covenant
[“Therefore, if you hearken to my voice and keep (shammar) my
covenant, you shall be my special possession, dearer to me than all
other people, though all the earth is mine. You shall be to me a
kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6)]. Shammar is a
word which can be translated as “keep” but might be better
translated as “guard (keep safe)” (see Genesis 2:15). The
people have accepted the invitation [“Everything the LORD has
said, we will do” (Exodus 19:8)].
The people however are afraid to go up the mountain so they send Moses
in their stead. Moses receives the ten commandments verbally and
verbally delivers them to the people. Moses then ascends the mountain
again and God gives him other laws: the treatment of Hebrew slaves,
rules of conduct for personal injuries, the rules and penalties for the
protection of property, laws of justice and mercy, and laws of social
responsibility – it is from these laws that our reading for today
is taken. Today’s reading appears as Exodus 22:21-27 in most
translations but the New American Bible, Jerusalem Bible, and New
Jerusalem Bible have it as Exodus 22:20-26.
20 “You shall not molest or oppress an alien,
for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.
The alien is one who, because of war, plague, famine, or bloodguilt,
was forced to leave his home. In his new abode, his civil rights are,
understandably, less than those of his neighbors. As assurance that the
Israelites would be hospitable to these unfortunates, the code reminds
them of their former status as aliens in Egypt.
21 You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. 22 If
ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their
cry. 23 My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword;
then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.
Any wrong done to the unprotected widow and orphan would incur a wrathful Yahweh as their avenging kinsman.
24 “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.
Extortion of interest on a loan to a fellow Israelite, particularly if
he were needy, was sharply prohibited. However, the Old Testament does
not proscribe all interest. From both Leviticus 25:35-38 and
Deuteronomy 23:20-21, the injunction clearly regarded only a loan to
one’s countryman. The deuteronomic code clearly allows interest
to be demanded from foreigners. The loans addressed here are not for
commercial purposes but to alleviate distress: to take interest on them
would be to profit from another’s misfortune.
25 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a
pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; 26 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.
The poor are specifically protected; their cloak, which also served as
their blanket at night, had to be returned to them by evening. The
compassionate God watches over the weak. Amos 2:8 accuses the wealthy
of sleeping upon garments taken in pledge.
2nd Reading - 1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
In evangelization the initiative lies with God and it is He who causes
the preaching of the Gospel to bear fruit. The election of the
Christian is made by God and proceeds from His love (1:4); His son,
Jesus, “who delivers us from the wrath to come (1:10), sustains
our hope (1:3); the action of the Holy Spirit renders the
preacher’s word persuasive (1:5) and fills with joy those who
listen to it no matter what trials may befall them (1:6). The core of
preaching is the gospel (1:5), that is, the good news of salvation
foretold by the prophets and brought to fulfillment by our Lord Jesus
Christ. The proclamation of this news tells those who listen that they
are Abeloved by God,” specially chosen by Him (1:4). They are
called to turn to God (1:9), who will give the three theological
virtues (faith, hope and charity) to those who accept the Christian
message (1:3). Faith and the sanctifying action of the Holy Spirit lead
believers to salvation, to attaining the glory of the Lord Jesus (2
Thessalonians 2:13-14). Let’s read last week’s reading
along with the one for this week.
1:1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians in
God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: grace to you and peace. 2 We
give thanks to God always for all of you, remembering you in our
prayers, unceasingly 3 calling to mind your work of faith and labor of
love and endurance in hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, before our God and
Father, 4 knowing, brothers loved by God, how you were chosen. 5 For
our gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in
the holy Spirit and (with) much conviction. You know what sort of
people we were (among) you for your sake.
The reading for last week closed with a proclamation about how
evangelization (preaching the gospel) was carried out. This
week’s reading completes that verse by stressing that the
apostle’s lifestyle is an important witness to the authenticity
of their message.
6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
Christianity is an imitation of God after the manner revealed by Jesus.
The apostles imitate Jesus and their converts imitate them.
“Those who, eager to believe, suffer insults and injuries from
their fellows, are precisely those who may be called imitators of the
apostles and of the Lord Himself. He suffered the same things from the
Jews, as did the apostles who endured persecution as they pursued their
faith in God.” [The Ambrosiaster (between A.D. 366-384),
Commentaries on Thirteen Pauline Epistles 1 Thessalonians 1:6]
receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the holy Spirit,
Joy in the faith in spite of persecution is the work of the Holy Spirit and the imitation of Christ.
7 so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
Modern day Greece
8 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.
The conversion of the Thessalonians is celebrated.
9 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
In the Septuagint and in the New Testament, idols are synonymous with
false gods; they do not exist and their worship is related to demons.
Their conversion involves a departure from the worship of non-existent
gods for the service of a God who truly lives and is what He claims to
10 and to await his Son
To the monotheism of the living God is added Christology. Jesus of
Nazareth is the son of God, and God has raised Him from the dead.
The dwelling place of God.
whom he raised from (the) dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.
The end times are also mentioned – this same Jesus who was raised
from the dead will come and rescue us from the definitive manifestation
of God’s wrath, the unrepentant sinner will be punished.
Gospel - Matthew 22:34-40
Last week we heard Jesus’ reply to the question of paying taxes
– a question which had been designed to trip Him up. After this,
and before today’s reading, Jesus is approached by the Sadducees
who question Him about the resurrection and whose wife the woman with
seven husbands will be. Jesus reply is that in heaven there is no
marriage because all are like angels, but there certainly is an
afterlife because God had called Himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob (Exodus 3:6) and He is the God of the living and not the dead. He
has sidestepped the Sadducees and has again astounded the crowd.
34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they
gathered together, 35 and one of them (a scholar of the law)
Some translations call him a lawyer. He is a scribe, one learned in the Torah.
tested him by asking, 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
The Pharisees had enumerated 613 commandments but there was no
agreement as to what the ranking was. After all, one of them must be
the most important, the first from which all the others descended.
37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all
your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the
greatest and the first commandment.
Jesus cites Deuteronomy 6:5. Love is not primarily a feeling but
covenant fidelity – a matter of willing and doing. Although this
is part of the schema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, Numbers 15:37-41),
a prayer recited daily by faithful Jews and the principal Jewish
confession of faith, it was not numbered among the commandments.
39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Jesus now cites Leviticus 19:18, another one not numbered among the commandments.
40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
The rabbis said that the world hangs on Torah, temple service, and
deeds of loving kindness – or on truth, judgment and peace. Jesus
makes the Law itself depend upon deeds of love.
St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, MS http://www.scborromeo.org