With all my heart!

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel, the Pharisees ask Jesus another question. Their aim is to entrap him, so that they would have enough evidence to arrest him. This is the third question. We heard the first one in last week’s Gospel. This is followed by another question from the Sadducees, when they ask Jesus about the resurrection. Then we have today’s reading.

The Jews followed the Mosaic Law. They do not only obey the Ten Commandments, but also innumerable rules and regulations which we find in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. The Jews used to discuss a lot about the priority of these laws and their ranking in importance. In his wisdom, Jesus gathers everything in two declarations: “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself.”

The word ‘law’ quickly suggests thoughts of restrictions. But the lynchpin in God’s law is love. If we understand God’s law – the Commandments, we recognise that through them we will remove all obstacles which hinder us from loving God and others. We can divide the Commandments into two: the first three focus on our relationship with God, the other seven refer to our relationship with others.

What does it mean, to love God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind? Last week we referred to the temptation which we may have of excluding God from certain areas in our lives, for example from work related or leisure related decisions. Loving God with all our being, means that we love him through everything we do and say, all day long, wherever we are. God does not want half-hearted Christians.

Loving others is not always easy. The first step towards loving someone is to get to know him and start a relationship with him. Love does not depend on our moods. Perfect love is the love God has for each one of us. He continues to love us despite our shortcomings, his love for us does not change. God does not love us because we deserve it, he loves us because we belong to him, and we continue to belong to him, whatever choices we make. This is what Jesus is inviting us to do today. He wants us to draw closer to this way of loving others. The more we get to know God, the more we can love him.

Jesus also asks us to love others as we love ourselves. To love yourself does not mean that we are always happy with who we are and what we do. We can always become better. Jesus died for us because he loves us, he loves us even with our shortcomings and failures. However, he gives us his help to become better persons. He wants us to love others, in the same way, despite their weaknesses. He knows that this will not be easy. It is not natural for us to love in this way. Had it been so, he would not have had to state that it is our responsibility to love others, and that such an indication was a commandment. How can I know that I am loving others in the way Jesus wishes me to love? In his letter to the Corinthians, St Paul gives us the best way to check this out, and to emend our shortcomings in this regard. Read 1 Corinthians 13, 4 – 8 and see how you can become a more loving person.In this episode, Jesus teaches us that we have several responsibilities, but the most important is our responsibility towards God’s will. No-one and nothing should come before him. Two laws guide us. The law of man and that of God. God’s law is always above the law of man.

A reading from the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 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 neighbour as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

The Gospel of the Lord
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ

  1. Read the Gospel story so that you are familiar with it.
  2. Reflect on what the Gospel story is saying to you. Which points would you highlight and why?
  3. Who is God for you? Who is your neighbour?
  4. Is there a section in this Great Commandment which you are having difficulty with? Do you think it is easier to love God but not those around you? Or maybe it is ok for you to help and love others, but find it difficult to feel close to God?
  5. Together with your family find the right time to read this gospel. The environment helps, so before you start, prepare:
    i. The Bible reading from St Matthew (22, 34-40)
    ii. A lit candle;
    iii. Cover the table with green cloth;
    iv. A computer/laptop with the reading and clips.
  6. Go through the steps with your children (2 age groups are being suggested).
  7. Feel free to adapt to your situation.
  8. Be creative 😊
  9. Go to the Prayer Corner section to continue praying as a family.

If someone were to ask you: “What is the thing which is most important for you to do?” What would your answer be to this question? Today Jesus is going to tell us how we should answer.

We will learn that:

  • God loves us a lot
  • We are to love God too
  • We are to love others

We need:

  • Large empty papers, which when fixed to each other, become the same size as one of the children
  • Tape
  • Pencil
  • Colours

Did someone ever tell you to be good? How should we behave to be good children? (allow the children to give their answers)

That was quite a list of things that we must do! Will we manage to remember them all? Once they asked Jesus this same question, and do you know how he answered them? He told this people, and today he is telling us as well to: “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself.” What do you think that Jesus is telling us?

For Jesus, the most important thing is, that we love God. How can we love God? What can we do to love him? (give enough time for replies)

Every day, we can increase our love for God. We can love him when we pray. We pray in the morning and tell God that whatever we do during the day, we will be doing it for him. Before we go to sleep, we can talk with God again. We thank him for the day and for all the things we did. We say sorry for the things we did, and which did not please him. During the day we can also talk with God. We thank him for each good thing that happens, we say sorry for our wrong choices, we ask him to help us in our difficulties. On Sunday we go to mass.

Jesus also asks us to love others, like we love ourselves. He tells us that what we wish for ourselves, we should do with others. If I would like others to be my friends, then I should be their friend; if I would like my brother to share this chocolate with me, I should share my sweets with him.

God loves everyone. When we love others, we will be loving God too!

For today’s activity, we are going to draw the outline of one of us. Fix the papers together so that they are the same length as one of the children. The child lies down on the paper and someone draws his outline on the paper. On this paper, in the middle, write: “Love God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, love others as yourself.” Now, everyone thinks of how we can use the different parts of our body to love God and others.

  • Ears (we listen to Bible stories, worship music, I give other the chance to speak);
  • Eyes (I read the Bible, I see who needs my help);
  • Mouth (I pray, I sing worship songs, I sing in church, when I speak, I use kind words, I tell my parents, brothers and sisters that I love them);
  • Hands (I help in the house, I help others, I do birthday cards for my grandparents);
  • Feet (I go to church, I take the dog for a walk, when my parents need something from another room, I go and get it for them).

After everyone has given his examples, with the help of the parents, the children write or draw some of these examples near the eyes, ears, etc. Hang this somewhere where everyone can see it, so that all are reminded that Jesus wants us to love God and to love others.

Sign of the cross.

Lord God, thank you for loving me. I want to love you and to love others, like you love me. Help me to share, to help and to love others.

Listen to and sing The Greatest Commandment.

Did you ever hear of the Guinness Book of Records? In it, there are records of things like the tallest and shortest persons in the world, who ate the biggest hamburger, who made the biggest pizza and many other achievements. You can look them up on the internet, with your parents’ help. You will also find Maltese names in this Book! Today the Pharisees are going to ask Jesus another question. They will not ask him about who has the longest hair in the world or who is the eldest person. They will ask Jesus about the greatest commandment. Do you know how Jesus replies?

We will learn that:

  • The most important thing in our lives should be to love God

We need:

  • Three empty jam jars
  • Strips of paper to write on
  • Pencils
  • Ribbons and other decorations for the jars
  • 3 empty stickers

Did you ever have to study a long list of words for dictation? Or did mummy ever need to go out and left you with a long list of things to do: clean your room, take out the rubbish, feed the dog, do not open the door, do not answer the telephone, do not fight with your brothers, finish your homework, and others? And you say, ‘but how am I going to remember all this?

The Jews had a lot of laws and rules which they had to remember. They did not only have the Ten Commandments, but also many other rules. Some among them used to ask, how was it going to be possible to remember them all! Jesus had the solution. He told them, and today, he is showing us too, how it will not be difficult for us to remember what is most important for us. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” and “love your neighbour as yourself.”

Did you ever see these initials: WWJD? These are the first letters of the words: What Would Jesus Do.

What do you think? Did Jesus obey this commandment?
Should we not be trying to live in the way Jesus wishes us to?
So before doing or saying something, we should ask WWJD. When we do or say, what Jesus wants, we will be obeying this great commandment. 

Today’s activity will help us to remember and obey this commandment during the coming week. We do not obey this commandment during this coming week only! If we have started to do something right, we should continue to do it every day.

Discuss how we can love God and others (these may be some of the examples: prayer, worship songs, mass, helping at home, sharing, kind and loving words). When everyone has had a turn, give out the strips of paper. On each paper, write down how we can love God or others. When all the strips of paper have been used up, the children may decorate the three jars. Put a sticker on each. On the first one the children write: Love God, on another: Love others (parents), on the last one, they write: Love others (children). When the jars are ready, the strips of paper are put in them accordingly. Every day, each person takes one among these pieces of paper and tries to put into practice the indications written on it.

Sign of the cross.

Say the Act of Love: O my God, I love you above all things with my whole heart and soul, because you are all good and worthy of all my love. I love my neighbour as myself for the love of you

Listen and sing, Love the Lord.

As in previous weeks, go to the Prayer Corner section to understand the Gospel better.

How to use this space

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. Here you will find useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.