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Gospel for Sunday, Oct. 29: Matthew 22:34-40

XXX Sunday A

34Then the Pharisees, having heard that he had shut his mouth to the Sadducees, gathered together 35and one of them, a doctor of the Law, questioned him to test him, 36“Teacher, in the Law, what is the great commandment?” 37He answered him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39The second then is similar to that, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Mt 22:34-40

Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (

Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.

“Disputes continue between Jesus and his opponents, who in turn try to catch him in contradiction with the faith of Israel, with the teaching of tradition, a deposit jealously guarded by them. The Sadducees, i.e., the priests (cf. Mt 22:23); the Pharisees (cf. Mt 22:15), a secular movement extremely tied to the Torah, to the Law; the Herodians, partisans of Herod (Mt 22:16); the interpreters of the Scriptures: all go to Jesus, while he is in the temple, to ask him questions, to “examine him” and catch him at fault in his words… “Teacher, in the Law, what is the great commandment?” The question is pertinent, because in rabbinic Judaism the Law had assumed a central place within the written revelation: and so the first five biblical books were the most studied and meditated upon, with a primacy over all the others, those of the prophets and wise men. In this study of the Torah, the rabbis had identified, in addition to the ten words given by God to Moses (cf. Ex 20:2-17; Deut 5:6-22), 613 precepts, as a text from Jewish tradition explains: Rabbi Simlaj said:

“On Mount Sinai 613 commandments were set forth to Moses: 365 negative, corresponding to the number of days in the solar year, and 248 positive, corresponding to the number of the organs of the human body … Then came David, who reduced these commandments to 11, as it is written [in Ps. 15] … Then came Isaiah, who reduced them to 6, as it is written [in Is 33:15-16] … Then came Micah, who reduced them to 3, as it is written: “What does the Lord ask of you, if not to practice righteousness, love godliness, walk humbly with your God? ‘ (Mi 6:8) … Then came Isaiah again and reduced them to 2, as it is written, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Observe law and practice righteousness”‘ (Is 56:1) … Finally came Habakkuk and reduced the commandments to one, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by his faith’ (Hab 2:4; cf. Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11)” (Babylonian Talmud, Makkot 24a)” (E. Bianchi).

Pharisaic Judaism, in its hillelite current, however, admitted both the faculty of a hierarchy of prescriptions, distinguishing them into “light” and “grave” (Mt 5:19; 23:23), and the possibility of summarizing the whole Law in one “great precept” (“kelal gadol”). Jesus is asked by the Pharisees, in today’s Gospel (Mt 22:34-40), the question of what he thought the “kelal gadol” was. Jesus responds by quoting the command of the “Shema’,” the “Hear, Israel” of Deut. 6:5, which enjoined love toward God, only replacing “with all the strength” of his text with the phrase “with all the mind” (“dianoia”). So far, position unassailable by the Pharisees. But Jesus immediately goes further, stating that there is “a second commandment similar to the first” (22:39), that of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. On these two precepts are “hung” (22:40: “krèmatai” implies the Hebrew “telujim”) not only the Torah but also all prophethood, just as two hinges support a door. “The association of the two precepts of love… is an evangelical datum without parallel in Judaism, except in the Testaments of the twelve Patriarchs, a work suspicious of Christian interpolations” (A. Mello).

Pope Francis affirms, “This response by Jesus is not obvious, because, among the many precepts of the Jewish law, the most important were the Ten Commandments, communicated directly by God to Moses as conditions of the covenant agreement with the people. But Jesus wants to make it clear that without love for God and neighbor there is no true faithfulness to this covenant with the Lord. You can do so many good things, fulfill so many precepts, so many good things, but if you do not have love, that is of no use.”

The Gospel call is extremely important in today’s religious situation, where faith is often lived privately and intimately, often reduced to worship and liturgy, and does not become an orthopraxis that transforms our social, economic, and political relationships. Yet God concretely wants to be loved in people:

20 You shall not molest the stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 21 You shall not mistreat the widow or the orphan. 22 If you mistreat him, when he cries to me for help, I will hear his cry, 23 My wrath will be kindled, and I will make you die by the sword: your wives will be widows and your children orphans. 24 If you lend money to any of my people, to the destitute who is with you, you shall not behave to him as a usurer: you shall not impose any interest on him. 25 If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him when the sun sets, 26 for it is his only blanket, it is the cloak for his skin; how could he cover himself by sleeping? Otherwise, when he cries out to me for help, I will hear his cry, for I am merciful” (Ex 20:22-26).

God wants to be loved in the “stranger,” we would say today in the “non-EU citizen,” who is not to be harassed but welcomed; in the “widow” and the “orphan,” symbols of all those oppressed by political systems that do not protect the weakest and the last; in the care that our economy does not prosper on the backs of the needy but is with them in solidarity (“to the indigent…you must not impose any interest on him!” ), in complete remission of the debt of the poor (“if you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you will return it to him at the setting of the sun”), as so many times in vainly demanded by the last Popes. The apostle John writes, “Whoever does not love his brother whom he sees, cannot love God whom he does not see” (1 John 4:20).

Let us ask ourselves if we have finally understood that the Eucharist, in which we participate at least weekly, is the celebration of the Son’s existence as a total offering out of love, which forcefully calls us to become also agapic love for our brothers and sisters, service, oblation, communion, sharing. Said John Chrysostom, “Do you want to honor the body of Christ? Do not neglect it when it lies naked…. He who said, ‘This is my body,’ is the same one who said, ‘You saw me hungry and did not feed me,’ and ‘What you did to the least of my brothers you did to me.'”

Cardinal Poletto affirmed, “If the Eucharist were understood and lived in its fundamental value for Christian life…, even the great challenge of peace and social justice…, if accepted, would lead humanity to become a true family of God’s children. This challenge can be met precisely with that ‘surplus’ of courage in love for others that believers receive from participating in the Eucharistic mystery, because it brings each of us inside the dynamic of the Passover of the Lord, who showed us, dying on the cross, that ‘no one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’ (Jn. 15:13).”

Happy Mercy to all!

Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at


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