30th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2023
During a recent visit to St. Anne's Shrine in Vermont, I found in the gift shop a beautiful statue depicting St. Anne handing a scroll to her young daughter, the Virgin Mary.
Tradition suggests that this scroll contains the verses of Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which says:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.
Take to heart these words which I command you today.
Keep repeating them to your children. "
Do those words sound familiar? They should, because Jesus quotes these very words in our Gospel reading today.
And why wouldn't He? Raised in a devout Jewish household, Jesus would have been deeply familiar with these core teachings, passed down from generation to generation.
It's the same scroll we imagine St. Anne handing to Mary, and Mary, in turn, would have instilled these values in her own son. For Jesus, this wasn't just a scriptural reference; it was a lived reality, foundational to His understanding of love and devotion to God.
In our first reading from Exodus, we're reminded of how this love for God is inseparably tied to how we treat the most vulnerable among us: the foreigner, the widow, the orphan.
The Israelites were told to recall their own experience of being marginalized in Egypt, driving home the message that our compassion towards others is a measure of our love for God.
These teachings pave the way for today's Gospel from Matthew, where Jesus encapsulates all the laws and prophets in two fundamental commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor.
This dual commandment is not a pair of unrelated rules but a unified, cohesive directive. To truly love God, we must also express love toward our neighbor.
This begs the question: who is our neighbor in today's complex world?
We find ourselves in the midst of a global immigration crisis, a reality that challenges our understanding of Jesus' command to love our neighbor.
Regardless of political leanings, the Gospel's call to love and act justly is unchanging and extends to everyone, even those beyond our immediate community.
So, what can we do about it?
To begin with, let's take to heart the call from Exodus to remember our own experiences of feeling marginalized or outcast. This act of remembrance not only nurtures our own compassion but also empowers us to engage in empathetic and informed dialogues about the crises we face today.
Second, let us harness the transformative power of prayer, interceding not only for those who suffer but also for those in positions to alleviate that suffering.
And third, if your heart feels the pull, consider supporting organizations that turn compassion into action, directly aiding those who are vulnerable. Catholic Relief Services, Catholic Charities and the Jesuit Refugee Service are just a few organizations that assist refugees not only on our own Southern border but around the world.
Finally, let's return to that intimate moment captured in the statue of St. Anne and young Mary—a symbol of faith passed down through generations.
The teachings on that scroll symbolize a lineage of love and devotion, passed from generation to generation—a lineage that should inspire us to love, both near and far, as a living testament to our faith.
Let us pray for the grace to live out these eternal teachings by loving boldly and acting justly, in humble companionship with our God and at the same time passing them down to the next generation.