Reflections for the Week of Sunday October 29, 2017 Twenty First after Pentecost

Gospel: Matthew 22:34-46 tells of a lawyer asking Jesus which is the greatest commandment, to which He answered with the Shema (‘Hear, O Israel,’ Dt 6:4, 5), to love the Lord, and to love your neighbor (Lev 19:18) as yourself. And Jesus asked them about the Messiah, who was He, and they answered, ‘The son of David,’ but Jesus quoted Ps 110:1 in which David, the psalmist, calls the Messiah “Lord.” So, how was He his son?

There is much confusion about the Messiah. The term refers, in the first instance, to a king like David (see 2 Sam 7) who would defeat Israel’s enemies. The term means ‘anointed’ (Christos in Greek) but did not mean divine until Jesus came.

But Jesus is saying in this verse that He is divine, the second Person of the Trinity. God had sent Him into the world (to be incarnate, born of the Blessed Virgin Mary (to fulfill His promises to lead His people out of the exile they had been in since the Babylonian captivity at the end of the 7th century B.C.)

O, Israel had returned from Babylon, but they were under foreign dominion and God had never returned to the Temple until Jesus on Palm Sunday represented God returning to Jerusalem and the Temple at last. But the Temple and the Levitical priests were still corrupt. Jesus’ anger in His visit to the Temple implied it would be destroyed, and it was in 70 A.D. by the Roman legions.

Jesus was calling His people to a new kind of life – of love, forgiveness, and peace, pronouncing judgment against those who chose to rebel through armed force against their enemies. Christian behavior is aided by what N.T. Wright refers to In After You Believe as a ‘virtuous circle’ of practices: reading Scripture, living the Christian story of the return from exile, following good examples, sharing in Christian community, and practices such as worship, Eucharist, prayer, and giving.

Scripture plays an essential role in shaping one’s character. The Holy Spirit works through Scripture to mold us into loving, forgiving, members of a community devoted to and learning to practice all the Christian virtues. The intentional, deliberate commitment to this kind of behavior will gradually enable us to become proficient in living the Christian life, to put others first, to bear their burdens, to strive to love them even when they are unlovable, to be humble, kind, generous, and godly. To be encouraging, edifying, seeking to understand, empathize, putting others first, giving them the benefit of the doubt, giving respect. To live like this based on an ongoing relationship with Jesus is to be participating in bringing in God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. Such a life must be based on love, faith, and hope empowered by the Holy Spirit. It requires dying to oneself and seeking to serve others first and foremost.

Daily devotion to Scripture enables the Holy Spirit to gradually transform us ‘by the renewal of our minds’ (Rm 12:1,2) so that we are no longer conformed to this world but begin to live in part in the unseen world of the Spirit – the realm where God dwells with the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit in their eternal dance of mutual love, peace, and joy and are inviting us to join in their dance and to share their lives. They long for us to join them and are interceding for us and bestowing their grace on us continually.

Memory Verse: Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Cor 3:2).

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