31st Sunday of the Year (B) 2018

In the run up to today’s Gospel reading we have Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees, (all experts on the Scriptures and the religious traditions) asking Jesus difficult questions in an effort to trap him. One of the Scribes, who was listening in and impressed with the answer and explanations that Jesus gave asked him a very important and sincere question. “Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Judaism, at the time of Jesus, was an utterly confusing aggregate of hundreds of laws and regulations covering the minutest details of life. This Scribe was hoping that Jesus could bring some sanity to the legalistic confusion.
To his delight he got a simple, straightforward, and very clear answer – love God and your neighbour.
We human beings, in our usual inimitable way, take this simple answer and obfuscate it.
We ask, ‘who is my neighbour?’
The answer is equally simple if I really want to know. Everyone who has ever lived, is presently alive and who will ever live in the future is my neighbour. If I in any way question this, if i quibble in any way, if I seek exceptions, then I am not a citizen of the Kingdom of God. After all, in God’s Kingdom, I hope to meet all these people face to face, on an equal footing. Can I face that?
We ask, ‘What do you mean by love?’
Love is a word which has been so bandied about, so analysed, so loosely used and abused, that it can mean anything.
In the New Testament Jesus of Nazareth was quite clear about love:
‘No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.’
And God in the Old Testament:
‘Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you.’
Since we are all ‘once off’ creations we all experience and express love in different ways – physically, emotionally, psychologically and spiritually. If I were to give one word that was to cover ‘love’ in all circumstances I would say ‘service.’
By and large in the Old Testament official religion functioned independently of ‘love’ and ‘neighbour.’
By and large I was brought up in a religious atmosphere which gave only lip service to ‘love’ and ‘neighbour’.
If Jesus of Nazareth were visibly with us today he would have exactly the same problem with religion today as He had 2000 years ago.
Our Pope Francis has the very same problem, the very same opposition today, because he too is trying to put ‘love’ and ‘neighbour’ as first priority in religious practise.
We wold love to help him.
The greatest way for I and you to help Francis is for each one of us to put ‘love’ and ‘neighbour’ as our top religious priority in all we do and say.