Ex 22: 20-26
Thus says the Lord: You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. You shall not wrong any widow or orphan. If ever you wrong them and they cry out to me, I will surely listen to their cry. My wrath will flare up, and I will kill you with the sword; then your own wives will be widows, and your children orphans.
If you lend money to my people, the poor among you, you must not be like a money lender; you must not demand interest from them. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this is his only covering; it is the cloak for his body. What will he sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will listen; for I am compassionate.
1 Thes 1: 5-10
Brothers and sisters: You know what sort of people we were [among] you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth not only in Macedonia and [in] Achaia, but in every place your faith in God has gone forth, so that we have no need to say anything. For they themselves openly declare about us what sort of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God and to await his Son from heaven, whom he raised from [the] dead, Jesus, who delivers us from the coming wrath.
Mt 22: 34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
In Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, my first assignment as an SVD missionary after ordination, I was already asleep at around 10 o’ clock in the evening. In the middle of the night, in the cold breeze of Sablayan wind, maybe I was already snoring that sounded like an old diesel engine, somebody was shouting, facing my window, trying to wake me up, “Fatherrrr…Fatherrr!!!”
I woke up, trying to figure out who was calling me. “Fatherrr….Fatherrr…” I said to myself, “Ang sarap matulogggg, Lord naman!?” (Lord, it’s so nice to sleep) I wanted to think that the call was for my great parish priest and friend, Fr. Halazs, SVD but he was in Manila that time. I got up from my wooden bed, went closer to my window with rusty screen, “Sino yan? (Who’s there)?” I found out that it was Ate Flory, one of our active parisshioners. She wanted me to bless her brother who was brought to the hospital because he was stabbed.
A bit unwilling, with a little hesitation, I went back to my bed, picked up my foam pillow covered with an old white cotton case and punched it lightly with my fist, “Lord, kung hindi lang kita mahal!” (Lord, if not for the love of You). I went with her and her driver to the hospital. I blessed her brother who was in a very critical condition, gave him Anointing and prayed over him for healing. After everything, I spent a little more time with them, then they brought me back to the convent. It was almost two o’clock in the morning.
I went back to bed and said to myself, “Lord, kung hindi lang kita mahal!” I slept with a smile and a sense of fulfillment.
More than a week after, I heard Ate Flory’s brother recovered and was discharged from the hospital.
Loving God is not just simply a teaching, not a doctrine. It is a way of life. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” For Jesus to mention “heart”, “soul” and “mind”, He means with all our life. Therefore, to love God does not simply mean just praising and worshiping Him. That is why, in the second reading, St. Paul described how the Thessalonians turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God. This call, to serve the living and true God, finds expression in the first reading today. Loving God is and must be also expressed by loving our neighbor. This is clearly visualized in the Book of Exodus. “You shall not molest…You shall not wrong any widow or orphan…lend money but you shall not act like an extortioner….” Otherwise, the Lord would surely hear their cry, His wrath would flare up. God is shown here as very much affected when we do injustice to our neighbors. And logically, God is pleased and happy, when we do love our neighbors. This wisdom is best summarized in our response today: “I love you, Lord, my strength.”
Remember. There are two sides of a coin.