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Reflection on the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted on October 29, 2023, by Mary Swain SL

Exodus 22:20-26, Matthew 22:34-40

It is as though the reading from Exodus was written for our times. “Don’t oppress. Don’t extort. Be compassionate.” Oppression, greed and lack of consideration of another were prevalent enough in the early times, too, as well as in our own. But it is also clear that God is always leading some people to cry out against oppression and for generosity and kindness to others. “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves.” Three years ago, on this same 30th Sunday of the Year with these readings we were praying for immigrants at our southern border. I do not know the current laws about immigration to the U.S., but the violence in some countries to the south of us continues to force people to move to our borders. Then there is what Hamas did to Israelis, even breaking into their homes and taking fathers away, leaving widows and orphans. Similarly, Israel is killing Palestinians and leaving many homeless and soon to be without food.

Then there is the part in Exodus about lending to a poor neighbor and not acting like an extortioner.  

The economy has been struggling because of the coronavirus and yet it seems that those who have much money are doing just fine. A bill was passed that gives assistance to many with low incomes but that law has ended. The U.S. government must lend to the poor neighbor.              

I was touched by the last part of the reading: If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge (as collateral), you shall return it before sunset, for the cloak may be the only covering your neighbor has to sleep under that night. The financial ethos of our U.S. system would not even think of saying such a thing. “Keep the cloak until the debt is paid — that’s justice” is what our financial system says. But there is another way, where kindness and consideration lead.

John McKenzie, a scripture scholar from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, says that Jesus’ answer to the question, “Which is the greatest commandment?” is not unusual, and rabbis of the day would have considered it an excellent answer: “You shall love God with all your heart, soul and mind.” McKenzie says that the new thing Jesus did was to place this commandment on the same level as what Jesus calls the second commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” McKenzie says there is no parallel in Jewish literature in which these two commandments really become one: to love God and to love the neighbor — one command.

This insight of Jesus has imbued our faith for years. None of us can argue that we love God but that caring for the neighbor is not very important. And we don’t. We are perhaps more and more aware that our neighbor is sitting next to us and our neighbor is in a village in Guatemala or Syria.  Globalization, it is called. The common good must be a part of it.

As Christians we know that loving God means loving the neighbor. In our lives, an “unworldly” relationship to God is not possible. Yet, love of neighbor can seem overwhelming at times, whether loving the near neighbor or the farther neighbor. Perhaps our prayer has to be a line from Elizabeth Johnson. Elizabeth says, “Encompassed by incomprehensible holy mystery, we allow our hearts to be conformed to God’s own heart, which pours out loving-kindness on the world in unrepentant faithfulness.” We can certainly ask God to conform our hearts to God’s own heart. We can pray that we are able to pour out loving-kindness on the world in unrepentant faithfulness. We can ask to be shown what it is we must do. We are not alone.


Mary Swain SL

Mary Swain SL has been a consultant to the National Religious Retirement Office and has served on the board for the National Association for Treasurers of Religious Institutes. Along with her math background and service to the Loretto Community in the financial area, she has experience as a church organist and plans and prepares materials for Loretto liturgies at Loretto Motherhouse and for special occasions. Mary resides at Loretto Motherhouse, the grounds of which receive her careful tending and loving touch.