Matt. 22: 34-40
Sunday Reflection by Sister JoAnn Recker, SNDdeN
As with many, if not most of you, the months of March, April, and May were very difficult ones for me. Similar months are still persisting for a great number of our sisters and brothers. Suddenly, like those in Albert Camus’ famous novel, “The Plague,” we were cut off, separated from one another, not knowing when the period of isolation and loneliness would pass. I live with four-legged housemates and, after a while, even they did not suffice. Ministerial involvements had come to a sudden stop: serving in my parish as sacristan, lector, Eucharistic Minister, catechist for the adult and youth faith-formation programs; chaplain for our local fire department; distributor of communion in a local nursing home. Live-streamed Masses were a great consolation, initially, but over time a belligerence swelled in me: “Mass is not a spectator sport!” – a cry I heard louder within myself as days of special celebrations passed: the anniversary of Julie’s death, her feast, the 70th anniversary of my First Communion, Holy Week, Easter…. I realized that I felt not only abandoned but purposeless.
In Sunday’s gospel, the Pharisees, once again tracking Jesus and wishing to catch him in a trap, pose the question: “’Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ ‘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.’”(Matt. 22: 37-39) Later, Jesus would offer a greater challenge to “love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (Jn. 15: 12-13) In our first reading from Exodus, the Lord indicates to his wandering, oft “purposeless” people those “neighbors” who are to be given preferential consideration: the alien or foreigner, widows, orphans, the poor and dispossessed.
Stopped in our tracks, how can we respond to the needs of those around us as we are graced and sent forth by our baptism to do? The light finally dawned when, after much prayer and reflection, I came to the realization that we never truly need to feel purposelessness, that, like Mary who suffered with her son at the foot of the cross, we have the possibility of completing in ourselves “for the Church’s sake, what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ.” (Prayer after Communion, Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows) No matter our physical liabilities or capacities, our suffering from our human limitations united with Jesus’ sufferings can always be offered for the needs of others, can be transformed by the grace of God into a redemptive suffering. What a gift of God’s Goodness to us for others! What a purposefulness this affords us!
Matthew 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.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Meet Sister JoAnn Recker, SNDdeN