during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic
The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Today we hear about God’s beautiful commandment of love. We are instructed to love God and our neighbour. Let us learn about God’s generous love and consider ways to be more loving ourselves and as a parish community.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
Introduction to the reading: The book of Exodus recounts how the Jews escaped from slavery in Egypt and made a covenant with God at Mount Sinai. While we’re familiar with the Ten Commandments as part of this covenant, God also included other laws. Note that many of them deal with how we treat other people.
A reading from the Book of Exodus
Thus says the Lord:
“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him,
for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
You shall not afflict any widow or orphan.
If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me,
I will surely hear their cry;
and my wrath will burn,
and I will kill you with the sword,
and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.
“If you lend money to any of my people with you who is poor,
you shall not be to him as a creditor,
and you shall not exact interest from him.
If ever you take your neighbour’s garment in pledge,
you shall restore it to him before the sun goes down;
for that is his only covering,
it is his mantle for his body;
in what else shall he sleep?
And if he cries to me, I will hear, for I am compassionate.
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial psalm: Psalm 96:1 and 3.4-5..7-8.9-10a
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm beginning and ending with the response:
R/: I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, Lord, my strength;
O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my saviour.
My God, my rock where I take refuge;
my shield, my saving strength, my stronghold.
I cry out, ‘Praised be the Lord!’
and see, I am saved from my foes.
The Lord lives, and blest be my Rock!
May the God of my salvation be exalted.
The Lord gives great victories to his king,
and shows merciful love for his anointed.
R/: I love you, Lord, my strength.
Introduction to the reading: Some geography will help us appreciate this reading. Macedonia was a Roman province in northern Greece in which the city of Thessalonica was located. Achaia was the province in southern Greece to which Paul journeyed after preaching to the Thessalonians. In this, his first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul reports that, on his journey, he learned that their exemplary faith was already known and talked about throughout Greece.
A reading from the first letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians
Brothers and sisters:
You know what kind of people
we proved to be among you for your sake.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord,
for you received the word in much affliction,
with joy inspired by the Holy Spirit;
so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia,
but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere,
so that we need not say anything.
For they themselves report concerning us
what a welcome we had among you,
and how you turned to God from idols,
to serve a living and true God,
and to wait for his Son from heaven,
whom he raised from the dead,
Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
The Word of the Lord.
If a person loves me, he will keep my words, says the Lord; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew
At that time:
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they came together.
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
And he said to him,
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the great and first commandment.
And a second is like it,
You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
There is a story about a young woman who was in great distress because she had lost a sense of God in her life. She complained to her elderly grandmother, “Why doesn’t God let me feel His presence? If only I could feel Him and know that He has touched me.” Her grandmother said, “Pray to God, right now. Close your eyes and pray to him. Ask Him to put out his hand and touch you.” The girl closed her eyes and prayed fervently. Then she felt a hand on her hand. “He touched me. He touched me,” she cried out. Then she said, “You know, his hand felt just like your hand.” “Of course it was my hand,” her grandmother said. “That’s how God works. He takes the hand that is nearest and uses that.”
Think about your experiences of the presence of God. Have you been aware of God taking the hand that is nearest and using it? Image God taking you by the hand. Pause. How would you describe God?
If a pagan were to ask a Jew, “What is your image of God?” They would respond, “In God’s image we were made.” In other words, “The image of our God is to be found in each human being.” That’s what Jesus wants us to understand today. We humans want to pay proper homage to an invisible God in our world. We need to pay homage to God in our daily life. And it is Jesus who shows us how.
Teens go through high school with important questions to face. Am I “in” with the crowd? Can I could hold my own against the bullies, can I get along with girls, can I get along with the boys, did I wear the right clothes, am I cool enough? These are obviously more important and more crucial than anything else in their lives.
When I think to my school days – about a gazillion years ago, I did not think much about the place of “love” in the overall scheme of life.
Then a few years later I was in the Seminary. We had a course on English literature to help upgrade our language skills. It was taught by Mrs D – an excellent teacher who had taught for years and years. She had a great love for her subject and had the skill to effectively impart her knowledge. One thing I have always remembered from her course is this: If you want to know what is happening in a work of literature, look what love is doing.
Look at what love is doing!
I had never thought about love in a way like that. I thought it was something parents have for you and tell you about it over and over. Could it really be the key to plays, poems, novels, short stories and literature? The key to humanity? As I read more and more, the clouds parted and I began to see that Mrs D was right: characters’ lives do centre around something called “love” or the lack of it.
Try it out when you read your next serious novel or short story. Which character acts out of real regard for the other(s) and which does not? What happens as a result?
That is fine in works of literature, but what about love in our own lives?
Have you discovered that love is quite a bit more than pretence, more than an ideal, more than just a thing we crave from others, and certainly more than just pleasure? Have you seen that learning to love is the very air inhaled by such everyday importances as work, relaxation, attractions, happiness? Without love’s living atmosphere none of these could breathe, nor could we.
Jesus says this in no uncertain terms.
You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind. …
You shall love your neighbour as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.
“What?” we might exclaim. We tend to think that law consisted of commands placed upon us from the outside, rules whose violation would bring punishment! What is this about law depending on love?
Well, lets take a look. God does not fail at love. God waits. God says, “how wonderful that you are learning!” God says, “I love every person on earth. And you: you are my beloved. I am at your side as you learn to open to me and to others.”
If we look honestly in our hearts, we can identify the times we fail in this.
Social media has become a big part of our lives. It is a wonderful way to stay in touch with family who might be spread across South Africa and spread across the world. Much interesting information and inspiring pictures can be passed around. It is easy to pass onto lots of people a funny video or an unusual image. It is just as easy to pass on a video of hate speech, or character assassination or fake news. It is easy to pass on material which causes division and hurt. It enables cruel people to tear into others with little effort. People can use the anonymity that social networks provide to bully others and tell dreadful lies about them.
It would be good to do a little housekeeping today on our smartphones. Take an honest look at what I have passed on. If it is material which causes hate and divisions and selfishness and hurt to another person, then I am guilty of cutting off the hand of God. I cut myself off from God with all the consequences of such an action.
So we need laws to help us. But the root of law and of life is love of others. It is loving concern under God for human persons. Ultimately it is an imitation of God’s love for us. If you want to love the God you can not see, love the human you can see.
“Look what love is doing.”
Jesus said… “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 neighbour as yourself.
The way we know that we are living Jesus’ commandment of total dedication to God, who is unseen, is to make that love visible by loving our neighbour as self. Jesus’ life shows us whom he considered his neighbour. Besides his disciples and friends, neighbour for Jesus included the least likely, the overlooked, the vulnerable and the people who are usually described in stereotypes.
So we ask ourselves:
Leader: My brothers and sisters, let us bring our prayers for our neighbours and all who are in need to God our loving Father.
We pray for the Church, as we try to follow the commandment to love our neighbours as ourselves: (pause)
that we may learn to forgive, to accept, to tolerate and to grow together into the people that God wants us to be.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the unloved people of this world, for those who are friendless and alone, for those who experience alienation far from home, for those who are sick and housebound, and for those who are not able to love themselves: (pause)
that they may find compassionate friends.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for healing of the wounds of discrimination: (pause)
that God will help us to turn from prejudice and give us the courage to work for inclusion and recognition of all people.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for prophetic people in the Church who work for justice, peace and the protection of God’s creation:
that we may support their efforts to transform the world into a place where God’s kingdom values are evident
LORD HEAR US.
We pray for all suffering financially: (pause)
that God will move leaders of government and business to develop opportunities to avoid eviction, provide for healthcare, and expand employment opportunities. LORD HEAR US
We pray for all medical staff and researchers in this coronavirus pandemic: (pause)
that God’s healing Spirit will guide them in their work of healing and finding a vaccine.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time, especially for: Mr and Mrs Barone, Jean Dodds, Hernani Guimarais and Laura Barone.
Leader: Let us pray for help to love others:
Lord, make me an instrument of your love.
May I see each circumstance in my life
as an opportunity to grow in your love.
May I see my environment
as a place to grow in your love.
May I then take this love to other people.
When I am tempted to become unkind,
help me to be kind.
When I am tempted to become jealous,
help me to be tolerant.
When I am tempted to become boastful or proud,
help me give you the glory.
When I am tempted to be rude or selfish,
give me the gift of gentleness.
When I am tempted to take offense,
help me to let go.
When I am tempted to become resentful,
give me your power to love.
Lord, grant that I may take no pleasure in criticizing others,
but that I may see good in them, as you do.
When I begin to concentrate on the faults and failures of others,
give me courage to praise their accomplishments.
All gifts and powers come from you.
May we grow in your gift of love.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Your love, O God, is boundless.
We who were strangers
have been made your children.
We who were defenceless
have been brought into your household.
Keep us mindful of your deeds of mercy,
that we may love you with our whole heart
and love our neighbour as ourselves.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.