In the readings for this Sunday, Oct. 29, Jesus gives us a very clear road map to being good Christians—as Paul says it—by being imitators of Jesus.
by Jen Schlameuss-Perry
The readings for this Sunday, Oct. 29, tell us that the two most important of God’s commandments are two sides of the same coin: to love God with everything you have and to love your neighbor as yourself. Using last week’s readings as a jumping-off point, we remember that being a good citizen means making sure that our laws care for the most vulnerable people. The first reading cites widows, orphans and aliens. It warns us that if we were to cause them harm—by action or inaction—God’s anger will “flare up against” us. To know best how to treat those who need us, we look for Jesus as our model and imitate his actions as closely as possible.
“If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”
I love you, Lord, my strength.
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit,
so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
You can read the full text of this Sunday’s readings here:
Today’s first reading is taken from the book of Exodus—the story of the people of God as they wandered through the desert learning how to be ruled by God, so that they would be ready for the Promised Land. God gave them many laws in that time (40 years) because God was teaching them how to know and rely on God in difficult times. The laws God gave were fresh on their minds, because they were part of their experience. God told the people to be nice to others who are in need at that time because they could remember what it felt like to be in need. He told them to be nice to strangers, because everywhere they went at that time, they were strangers. Those lessons meant more because the people felt them very personally.
Paul tells the Thessalonians to keep on imitating Jesus and the apostles that introduced them to Jesus as a way getting to know Jesus better. Their excellent example helped other people know Jesus, too. Imitating him is still the best way for us to teach other people about Jesus.
In the Gospel a man asked Jesus what the most important law of God was. There were hundreds of laws at that time, so this could have been a tricky question. But, not for Jesus! He understands what God wants from us and what the whole law is meant to teach us—that if we love God, we will be loving toward one another. Everything that the law and the prophets said when they spoke to the people for God, were meant to make us understand this. God wants us to understand from today’s readings that, if we withhold kindness from any person—whether we think they deserve it or not—that we’re withholding our love from God. To love God is to love others the way we love ourselves.
Jesus wants us to imitate him (very much unlike what siblings want!). Why is imitating Jesus a good idea? What are some things he did that you can imitate?
Throughout the Scriptures, God says repeatedly that, in particular, the poor and the alien should be given special consideration by the community. We hear it again in today’s first reading, with some pretty serious warnings about what will happen to us if we don’t care for them. Why do you think God is so focused on the poor and alien? How do you personally feel about those groups? Do you agree with God that they should be given special care by those who have what they need and are settled in their homes with the benefit of citizenship?
What has loving your neighbor as you loved yourself meant over your lifetime? How did the meaning of that commandment change over the years for you? How does your self-image affect the way you love others? How do you see the connectedness of the way you treat others with the way you understand/love God?
Bonus Question for all three groups:
Who is a model of Jesus for you?
A little lectio
The ancient practice of prayerfully reflecting on bits of Scripture is known as lectio divina. Want to try it out with your family? Head over to Lectio Divina for Kids to find out how to adapt this prayer practice for your kids.
A little Bible study
Want to do a little Bible study with your kids? Here are some tips:
- During Ordinary Time, the Church pairs the Old Testament and New Testament readings in a way that each sheds light on the other. Ask your kids to look for the common theme connecting the two readings. (Sometimes it’s obvious, sometimes it is subtle.) How does the “dialogue” between the readings help you understand them better?
- Get a New American Bible, Revised Edition, and take a look at the footnotes for these readings. How do they change your understanding of what is going on?
- Take a look at the context for the readings—what happens before, or after?
- Read the NABRE’s introduction to the book of the Bible that the readings are taken from. How does that help you understand the readings?
- If you don’t have a copy of the NABRE at home, you can view it online at the USCCB website at the Daily Readings web page. (The link will take you to today’s reading; click forward or backward on the dates to get to Sunday’s readings.)
For even more resources for breaking open this Sunday’s readings, head over to The Sunday Website.
The image for Breaking Open the Word at Home is taken from a 17th century illuminated manuscript by an anonymous (but very talented) artist. The text is from the beginning of the Book of Sirach, chapter 1, verses 1-12, which begins: “All wisdom is from the Lord and remains with him forever.”