Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
MT 22:34-40
October 29, 2017

Our First Reading from the Book of Exodus is easily compared and contrasted with our Gospel. To start, both are about God’s Law.

However, Exodus is detailed and explicit. It even carries with it a penalty clause for disobedience. By contrast, Matthew’s report of yet another challenging encounter with religious leaders shows Jesus radically simplifying things. The Lord reduces the Commandments to two base requirements: Love God and love neighbor. The only real “detail” that The Lord inserts is that “the second is like the first.” In other words, the expectation is that we should see The Divine image in all of humanity and respond to every other human being as we should respond to our Creator, with respect and with love.

How much more simple can it get?

Think of it this way. For centuries, people in English-speaking countries enjoyed what is called a “participation dance.” Certainly, my generation learned it in early elementary school, when, on rainy days, the desks would be pushed to the walls and we would gather in a circle in the middle of the classroom. If memory serves, The Hokey Pokey was as much fun as touch football or dodgeball on the playground.

As we sang the song and went through the gestures, everyone (even Sister) was in a good mood. It raised our spirits on dreary days. There were no winners or losers, no competition or rivalry, and no injuries. It was something we did as individuals…together. I would imagine, for younger children, the silly little song and dance was actually a learning experience. It enhanced listening and memory skills. At the same time, the weather bound kids got some exercise in a way that everyone was on an equal playing field. There is no quarterback or pitcher in the Hokey Pokey. Everyone simply lays aside inhibitions and enters into the spirit of the dance. Somehow, the “participation dance” is more than fun, it is an experience of joy. Not surprising, years later, I found myself still doing the Hokey Pokey at wedding receptions.

So, too, with God’s simplified, two-pronged Law of Love. EVERYONE as INDIVIDUALS but TOGETHER push the demands of the material world to the sidelines. Joined together in a circle of faith, we “put our right arms in,” and as a community of faith, raise our hands in prayer and worship of our God. We “put our left arms in,” and, in charity, reach out to those in need. We “put our left legs in” to carry us in the direction God calls us. We “put our heads in” and discern how we can best use our God-given gifts and talents to help make the world a better place for everyone to live.

Vibrant Christian Communities have learned that the spiritual life is very much like a “participation dance.” There are no superstars; instead, everyone exercises what God has given them as individuals but together. Each man, woman, and child drops all inhibitions and enters into the dance that is a learning experience, that leads to a deeper understanding and relationship with God and with one another. There is a great spirit that comes about through the “participation dance”… The Holy Spirit…The Spirit of Love. And, when a community reaches that point of the dance where EVERYONE puts their “whole self in,” then The Lord’s Law of Love is perfected in this circle of believers. What a cause for joy!

If this image seems too simple or silly, remember the hymn we so often sing at Eucharist…The Lord of The Dance.

Dance, then, wherever you may be,
I am the Lord of the Dance, said he,
And I’ll lead you all,
wherever you may be,
And I’ll lead you all
in the Dance, said he.

So then, which commandment in the Law is the greatest?

Isn’t it: “Do the Hokey Pokey and turn your life around”?

After all…”That’s what it’s all about.”