Putting God First
Friday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time

Matthew 22: 34-40.You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.

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Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint 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."

Matthew 22:34-40.

Introductory Prayer:
Lord, I believe in you with a faith that never seeks to test you. I trust in you, hoping to learn to accept and follow your will, even when it does not make sense to the way that I see things. May my love for you and those around me be similar to the love you have shown to me.Lord, thank you for this time together. Help me to put aside all obstacles. I believe that you are here with me, that you see me, that you hear me. Increase my faith. Help me to see that you are involved in my life actively seeking my good. Help me to love you in all that I do today. Don’t allow me to stray from your will. Keep me close to you. Guide and protect my family and me.

Lord, give me the strength to put you first in my life and others secondalways strive to meet the needs of others ahead of my own.

1. Putting God First:
The Pharisees had identified 613 commandments in the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament). Of these, 248 were positive (“You shall…”), and 365 negative (“You shall not…”). The Pharisees also built up a vast body of particular applications of the law. If, for example, a conflict arose concerning the law prohibiting work on the Sabbath, the Pharisees would interpret the Scriptures to reach a verdict on whether or not the activity should be permitted. We know from the Gospels that the Pharisees interpreted the Sabbath-rest law to prohibit healing, picking grain in the fields, or even carrying one’s mat. Among all of this legislation, the people sought some simplification. The question posed to Christ, about which was the greatest commandment, reflected a genuine concern as well as a common topic of theological discussion. Jesus’ gives a twofold response to the question about which of the commandments is the greatest is twofold. He first turns to Deuteronomy 6:15: “You shall love the Lord your God …” This was familiar to the Jews, for they recited this passage in prayer (called the “Shema”) several times a day and wrote it on all their doorposts. For us, as well as for the Jews, it is a constant reminder that God must be first in our life. As our creator and redeemer, God has an absolute claim on us. We owe him everything. Everything we have is a gift from him. Too often we shelve God, ignoring him until a convenient moment arises or it suits our mood. Putting God first in my life means setting aside the best part of my our day for prayer to him and seeking to live his will at every moment out of love for him.

2. Becoming “Other-Centered.”:
Jesus next turns to the commandment found in Leviticus 19:18: “You shall love your neighbor …” He combines the two commandments in such a way that one cannot be fulfilled without the other. There can be no love of God without loving other human persons, made in his image. Nor can love of neighbor exist without a pure and purifying love for God. Love for neighbor requires putting others ahead of myself ourselves. Self-love and self-absorption only lead only to loneliness and isolation. Being “other-centered” is the key to our happiness and fulfillment. To love others means to seek their true good, serving to serve them out of love for the Lord. We need to come out of ourselves and look beyond the narrow interests of our egoism and self-love. The more we love authentically, the more fulfilled our life will become.

3. Praying for Those Who Harm Us:
It is not easy to break out of selfish habits. Because of sin, we have the tendency to inflate self-interest in a disordered way. This is not good. We need to ask for the power of grace to purify our hearts and give us the interior strength to put others ahead of ourselves. God is ready to give us this grace, but he wants us to ask for it. Difficult circumstances and relationships need to be met withfaced by prayer and sacrifice. We need to pray even for those who harm us, and to ask God to give us the grace and strength to love them as God loves them. “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them” (Romans 12:14).

Conversation with Christ:
Lord, help me to put you first in my life. So many times I find myself putting other things ahead of you. I make time for the things I want to do, but I find little time to pray. I find time to talk to my friends, but little time to speak with you. I need strength from you to love you. Help me also to see and love others as you do.see them. Help me to love them as you love them.

I will pray during the day for someone who bothers me and seek to put their good before my own.


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