The central theme of today’s readings is the greatest commandment in the Bible, namely, to respond to God’s

love for us by loving Him, and then to express that love in action by loving Him living in our neighbor. Our love for God is tested and put into practice by the way we love our neighbor.

 Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from Exodus explains the second greatest commandment, namely, loving one’s neighbors as one loves oneself, especially the underprivileged. The

chosen people of Israel should remember that once they were aliens in the land of Egypt. Just as God protected them and treated them kindly, so they are to protect others and treat them with kindness. Thus, they should become a humane society rooted in the basic religious concept of loving God living in their

neighbor. In the second reading, St. Paul congratulates the Thessalonians on the positive effects of their

example of loving one another as Jesus had commanded them to do. Their mutual love and their loving reception of Paul and response to his

preaching, he tells them, has bolstered the Faith of

Christians elsewhere who have heard about them. In

 the Gospel today, Jesus combines the commandment to love God with the commandment to love one’s

neighbor and gives the result as the one

Commandment of supreme importance in Christian life. Jesus underlines the principle that we are to love our neighbor as we love ourselves because, as God’s children, both of us bear God’s image, and to honor

God’s image is to honor Him. Love for our neighbor

should not be a matter of feelings, but of deeds by which we share with others the unmerited love that God lavishes on us.

 Life messages: 1) We need to love God: Loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, in

response to His total love for us, means that we should place God’s will ahead of ours, seek the Lord’s will in all things, and make it paramount in our lives. There are several means by which we can express our love

for God and our gratitude to Him for His blessings, acknowledging our total dependence on Him. We need to keep God’s Commandments, and offer daily

prayers of thanksgiving, praise and petition. We also need to read and meditate on His word in the Bible and accept His invitation to join Him in the Mass and other liturgical functions. 2) We need to love our

 neighbor: God’s will is that we should love everyone, seeing Him in each of them. Since every human being is the child of God and the dwelling place of the Spirit of God, we are giving expression to our love of God by loving our neighbor as Jesus loves him or her. This means we need to help, support, encourage, forgive, and pray for everyone without discrimination based on color, race, religion, gender, age, wealth, or social status. Forgiveness, too, is vital. We love others by

refusing to hold a grudge for a wrong done to us. Even a rebuke can be given as an act of love, if it is done with the right heart. We also express love through

encouragement and by helping others to grow. We

express agápe love in meeting the needs of others by using the talents and blessings that God has given us to comfort each other, to teach each other and to

share the Gospel with each other, in deeds and in words. (L/23)

Fr. Sebastian

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