Balik-Tanaw | Responding to God and neighbor


21st Sunday after Pentecost

Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51
Exodus 22:20-26
1Thessalonians 1:5-10
Matthew 22:34-40

Several times, Jesus was tested by the authorities. Perhaps, these authorities thought that they knew a lot and they wanted to test Jesus if he knew what they knew. They wanted to measure the knowledge of Jesus on the scriptures and they made themselves as the standard of measuring knowledge.

Jesus must have challenged them and so they chased him. They wanted to follow up and continue the testing. Perhaps they were embarrassed because Jesus answered their questions well and in effect silenced them. They could not accept embarrassment and defeat and so they persisted in testing Jesus.They wanted to discredit Jesus. That evil thought motivates them in those tests.

A legal scholar asked the question: Which commandment in the law is the greatest? Jesus answered: You shall love God wholly and you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The passage ended here. The scholar did not pursue or follow up his question at least for clarification of the statements of Jesus. Grammatically, the “shall” does not only mean futurity but commandment. One is commanded to love God and neighbor. It commanded undivided love to God and equivalent love to neighbor.

We are told that God is love and that love is manifested in compassion just like the Lukan version of the Good Samaritan. In the Lukan version, it was the scholar who answered the question of Jesus on the scriptural basis of entrance in the eternal life. The Lukan version shifted from the focus on God to the focus on the neighbor. In the story of Jesus, the neighbor is a relationship between the victim and the responder. The victim calls me or appeals to me for mercy.

God and neighbor are infinite Others and my love in return to God and my response to the victim are always inadequate and unsatisfactory. I cannot forever equate myself to God and neighbor. I am always catching up and my return to God and response to the neighbor are always wanting or lacking. I am not the standard in measuring the adequate love and response. It is the Other who will say: It is enough. There is always an unbridgeable gap between God and myself, between my neighbor and myself.

I desire to love God but I cannot catch up with God. God summons me to move and live the gospels. The victims remind me of the crucified Jesus who calls me to respond to the crucified people of God. But the victims needing responses multiply all the more. With this pandemic, many people have suffered from hunger, joblessness, disease, human rights violation, discrimination and prejudice. Where will I go, Whom will I respond?

There is the desire to satisfy the infinite God and the neighbor. It is a desire that extends and stretches myself to reach out the Others – my God and my neighbor. But I know and feel that I will never satisfy the Others. But that desire moves me to get out of myself and to follow the path of the Others. There is always the love and compassion that summon me to respond to the Others without filling them fully or arriving finally to the end. It is a perpetual call and a perpetual desire. (

Balik-Tanaw is a group blog of Promotion of Church People’s Response. The Lectionary Gospel reflection is an invitation for meditation, contemplation, and action. As we nurture our faith by committing ourselves to journey with the people, we also wish to nourish the perspective coming from the point of view of hope and struggle of the people. It is our constant longing that even as crisis intensifies, the faithful will continue to strengthen their commitment to love God and our neighbor by being one with the people in their dreams and aspirations. The Title of the Lectionary Reflection would be Balik –Tanaw , isang PAGNINILAY . It is about looking back (balik) or revisiting the narratives and stories from the Biblical text and seeing ,reading, and reflecting on these with the current context (tanaw).

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