Mons. Francesco Follo
(ZENIT News / Vatican City, 11.02.2023).- Commentary on the Gospel of Sunday, November 05, 2023
Love and the Law.
Last Sunday we meditated over the first and great commandment, love for God, and the second which is like the first, love for the neighbor: “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt 22, 40).
In this Sunday ‘s Gospel, we are called to examine in depth the fact that Love is not opposed to the Law. St. Matthew shows that, contrary to what the Scribes and Pharisees think, Jesus does not despise the Law and does not intend to replace it with Love. Love is the fulfillment of the Law and the bond of perfection (see Col 3, 14; Rm 13, 10). Without Love the Law dies, and the Prophet fades. Love does not replace the Law but observes and fulfills it. Love is not an empty and superficial feeling; it does not neglect the Law but lives it in full. Love does not content itself by not saying the false but seeks the truth. Love is not satisfied with not killing but gives life. Love not only does not steal but meets the need of our brothers and sisters.
In today’s Gospel, it emerges that for Christ the Law is not to be reduced to a series of precepts to be put into practice. The Law is the word of God that indicates his will for life. Jesus is the first to accomplish this will, which is a gift that God gives to live as new men in love. Those who observe the commandments love and fulfill the law that is the path of life.
As the Prophets have constantly reminded, Jesus teaches that the Law is an expression of the cure with which God, as a shepherd, guides his people on the path to freedom.
If we listen to the word of the Father as Christ did, like him we live incarnating it and practicing filial love which prevents that compliance to the law is reduced to an empty, rigid, and inhumane legalism and, on the contrary, becomes a path of authenticity and holiness, that is, of full and not pharisaic maturity.
Children, brothers, and servants.
The opposite attitude to Pharisaism is fraternity among us because we are really the children of God (cf. 1 Jn 3: 1) who is a Father who loves to the point of giving his Son for our salvation. God is a Father who never leaves his children. He is a loving Father who sustains, helps, welcomes, forgives, and saves with a fidelity that immensely surpasses the fidelity of men to open itself to the dimensions of eternity “because his love is forever” (Ps 137). The love of God the Father never fails and does not get tired of us; it is love that gives to the extreme and to the sacrifice of the Son. We, children in the Son, are called to live Christian morality as an ethic of fraternity that becomes viable thanks to the Eucharistic communion.
This sacramental communion is not merely a private prayer where the single Christian encounters his God, although he must also do this. Sacramental Communion is more: it is the seal of mutual affiliation among Christians through their common bond with Christ. That is why it is an essential part of the Holy Mass in which we celebrate this union as brothers and sisters through our brother Jesus Christ. Eucharistic communion
– is an integral part of the event that is the Holy Mass
– is the seal of the fraternity between God and men and therefore, starting with God, of men among themselves
– is the inclusion of all men in the event of the Cross so that the whole world is delivered to God and thereby it is led to its true meaning
– is the call of every single Christian to be the living tabernacle of God in the world.
As tabernacles, we bring Love to the world realizing that the greatest of us is not the one who has the most, but the one who loves more thanks to the love he has in himself. To flourish, the world needs love and not wealth. Then, the greatest person in our world will be perhaps an unknown mother who works and loves in the secret of her home, or in the forests of Africa or Amazonia, or in the hiding of a small office or factory. Jesus overthrows our idea of greatness saying, “You are as great as great your heart is.” We are great when we know how to love and when we know how to do it as Jesus did, translating love into the divine madness of service: “I came to serve not to be served.” The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “(Mt 23: 11-12).
This is the novelty brought by Christ: God is between us, and He does not keep the world at His feet; He is at the feet of all. God is the great servant, not the master. I will serve Him because He has become my servant.
Service is what allows the establishment of the civilization of love where the greatest is the one who loves serving. “Washing the feet to the Apostles,” said Pope Francis on March 12, 2016, “Jesus wanted to reveal God’s way of acting toward us and give an example of his” new commandment “to love one another as He has loved us, that is, by giving his life for us. ” Service is “the way to live faith” in Jesus “and to bear witness to his love”. Love is concrete service, “a humble service made in silence and concealment. Love requires “work”, not just “words”. Love asks us “to make available the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given us, so that the community can grow”. Love “expresses itself in the sharing of material goods so that no one is in need.” It is a task that applies to believers and not only to them: sharing and dedication to those in need is a lifestyle that God asks from all Christians as a way of authentic humanity and holiness.
Regarding mutual service, Christ lovingly commands “The greatest among you is your servant; those who will rise will be lowered, and those who lower will be lifted up”. Jesus has given the example: “Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me ‘teacher’ and ‘master,’ and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.“(John 13: 12-14). This means that whoever has more is not to keep but to give; to be great is not a privilege, but a mission. The Lord will ask us to be accountable for the abundance that we have exploited and not offered for the benefit of others. God’s gifts and charisms are for common utility (cf. 1 Cor 12). We are like a body, with several members – noble or not – but all necessary for the good of the whole organism. Service, charity, and being available to others is not giving more, but a responsibility and a duty. They are a right of the poor and the weak, a right claimed before God.
This “command” to service is especially addressed to the consecrated Virgins. In fact, the Ordo virginum includes virgin women who, “embracing the holy purpose of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite. They are joined in mystical marriage to Christ the Son of God and dedicate themselves to the service of the Church “(CIC Article 604 § 1). The specificity of consecrated virginity is the “marriage” with Christ which “acquires the value of a ministry in the service of the people of God and places the consecrated persons in the heart of the Church and the world” (Rite of the Consecration of the Virgins, Premise).
The Consecrated Virgins are in this ecclesial journey precisely for a particular reference to the sphere of the affections. In fact, with their lives and devoting to Him and His Kingdom all their own forces of love, they testify that every vocation is the welcoming of God’s charity and the answer to Him in the service to others. They remind us of the theological source of love above all through virginity. Their virginity recalls the virginity of the heart and affections that is born and nourished by the intimate and fruitful communion with the Lord.