Sunday, Oct. 29, is the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A). Mass Readings: Exodus 22:20-26; Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51; 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Matthew 22:34-40

Today, Jesus says something that is at the same time straightforward and seemingly impossible.

He spells out what the greatest commandment is: “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.”

It is a very clear answer — until you wonder: What does it look like to love God with your heart, soul and mind? What does it look like to “love your neighbor as yourself?”

Anticipating just those questions, the Church wisely gave us two other readings in today’s Mass to explain.

The second reading is St. Paul’s First letter to the Thessalonians, perhaps the earliest book ever written in the New Testament. In it, we see the surprise and excitement that Paul has in meeting early Christians who are loving God in in a new way.

Despite “great affliction,” they have gone from being “imitators” of the disciples to “a model for all the believers” in the region, filled with “joy from the Holy Spirit.” Above all, they have “turned to God from idols” and now “serve the living and true God.”

Elsewhere, Paul hints at the life they have left behind. They no longer live “in lustful passion, as do the Gentiles, who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:5). He described the prevalent idol-worship this way: “When you did not know God, you became slaves to things that by nature are not gods; but now that you have come to know God, or rather, to be known by God,” you must live differently (Galatians 4:8).

This is what loving God above all looks like: a joyful group living in a new way, unattached from worldly lusts and ignoring the idols of power, pleasure and wealth.

And what does it mean to “love your neighbor as yourself”? The first reading covers that one. From Exodus, we hear: “Thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.’”

You shall not make money from others’ misfortunes; you can’t live off of inordinate interest won from others, and “You shall not wrong any widow or orphan.”

So, “love God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself” really is straightforward and will change your life if you allow God to help you with it.

It is an invitation to love God more than the cheap ploys for attention the world offers, in such a way that people remark on the way you live. It is an invitation to go beyond politics and your own inclinations to serve others, regardless of where they are.

Tom Hoopes is writer

in residence at

Benedictine College

and author of The Fatima

Family Handbook (Holy Heroes).