Our Holy Land collection totaled $1,318, more than 4 times our normal Good Friday collection. I thank you for your generosity. They need the help more than ever this year, with the lack of tourist income. PACT (Pius Parishioners Always Come Through)!
When a scholar of the law asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment, Jesus gave an answer that would have been expected: You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The religious leaders and the people would have agreed with this. However, Jesus didn’t stop; He added something new: The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. He elevated love of neighbor to the level of love of God. This was consistent with what He had been preaching throughout His active ministry. For example, He turned “an eye for an eye” into “turn the other cheek.”
The Jews thought they showed love of God by fidelity to the Covenant, by keeping all the laws (over 600 of them!). Jesus was saying we REALLY show love God by love of neighbor. Sometimes, we Christians have not gotten this message. In a survey of American Catholics taken in the 60’s, participants were asked this question: What's the more important law -- love your neighbor or give up meat on Friday? More than 50% responded, "Give up meat on Friday." The Second Vatican Council addressed this mix up in priorities by stripping away some non-essential things that had taken center stage. Pope Francis has been following up on that by reminding us that love – manifested as mercy and compassion – needs to be in the center, not rules and regulations. It doesn’t mean that law and rules are unimportant; it means that they are in service of love and compassion.
Therefore, as Christians who believe in Jesus and his Gospel, we must put love and compassion in the center when we are deciding what we will believe, how we will act, or how we will vote.
REFLECTION: do I use observance of laws and regulations as an excuse to avoid showing love for my neighbor, especially the most needy? Or do I use following the laws and regulations of the faith to help me grow in my love of God, shown through love of neighbor? How can I improve?
Our Gospel ends with these words of Jesus: The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. Let us make sure that religious observance is helping us to grow in love of God, manifested through love of neighbor. God bless.