Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time A
Did your parents ever play favorites among your brothers and sisters? Or did you ever play favorites with your own kids? Most siblings joke about just who mom or dad loved best. In my family, it wasn’t a joke: with one sibling so clearly more intelligent, handsome, and charming than all the others, of course I was their favorite. Just kidding!!!
A study done a few years ago revealed that parents playing favorites isn’t really a joke. It turns out that 70% of fathers and 74% of mothers admitted to purposely giving preferential treatment to one of their children.
That’s kind of disturbing news, isn’t it?
But what if I were to tell you that God himself shows favoritism among his children? But—you object—God loves us all, and he loves us all equally. True enough. But if you read the Scriptures closely, you begin to see that God repeatedly shows special treatment to some folks. Consider our first reading this Sunday. As God lays out laws for his people, he singles out foreigners and strangers, widows and orphans, the poor as people deserving of favored treatment and protection. God has a soft spot for outsiders and the vulnerable, and he expects us to do the same. God wants us, like him, to show extra care and compassion to those who need love the most—maybe even to those who deserve love the least.
Who in your life right now, who among your neighbors, is poorest when it comes to experiencing love? And what are you going to do about it?
Now, what if I were to tell that God’s love no only plays favorites, but that it’s insanely jealous. It’s true. God tells us so point blank, just a couple of chapters earlier in Exodus, while giving the Ten Commandments: “I, the Lord, your God, am a jealous God” (Ex 20:5). What is God jealous for? Well, God is jealous for your love, your trust, and your company.
God is jealous for your love. He won’t be content just being one more item on the long list of people and things you love. God won’t even settle for being number 1. If there’s anything else on the your, God wants it to be there because you love it for his sake. Of course God expects us to love him more than our house or our car. He expects us to love him more than our country or the Church. He even expects us to love him more than our spouse or our children. God is jealous for your love, and so he asks for your whole heart.
God is jealous for you trust. In what sort of things do we put our trust? Maybe we put stock in our intelligence, good looks, or charm—the things that made us the favorite son or daughter. Maybe we see strength in our family name, our influence, or our wealth. But all of those things can and do fail us. God wants us to leave no room for such idols, for such false gods—demanding our undivided allegiance. God is jealous for your trust, and so he asks for your full soul.
God is also jealous for your company. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone who can’t take their eyes (or their thumbs) off of their Smartphone? They might say they’re still listening…but how much of their attention are you really getting? Imagine how often God must have that experience when he’s trying to communicate with us! God’s purpose in creating us—in creating all things, actually—is to enter into an exclusive, intimate relationship with you and me—one that starts now, and is meant to last forever. God is jealous for your company, and so he asks for your entire mind.
God’s looking for more than a little affection, more than an emotional response from us; he’s looking for a deep and total commitment. The Lord has every right to expect from us our all.
God’s love is jealous, and it plays favorites. And both of those details come to the fore as Jesus reveals the two greatest commandments in God’s law: that we must love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves. To keep these is our highest obligation. In fact, we can’t be genuinely observing any other of God’s laws if we are not first keeping these two commands.
Now you know! God plays favorites. So be sure to love those whom God loves best: love your neighbors who need it most. And God is insanely jealous—jealous for your love, your trust, and your company. So give him what he desires more than anything: all of your heart, all of your soul, and all of your mind.