Thirty-first Sunday
in Ordinary Time
Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 12:28b-34
“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One” is probably the most famous of all Jewish sayings. It is the first line of the “Shema,” a declaration of faith prayed by Jews when they rise in the morning and before going to sleep at night. It is the first prayer that a Jewish child is taught to say. These are the last words a Jew says prior to death. This line is repeated again and again in Jewish prayer.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is from Leviticus 19:17. Although there are some ceremonial precepts in this chapter most of them are moral. It is no wonder, then, that the scribe “answered with understanding.”

Jesus had shown himself to be a true Jew.   When we were baptized in the name of Jesus, we adopted the mind of Christ and committed ourselves to this mind.

 It is easy to hear only: “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” in the First Reading from Deuteronomy. God is infinitely lovable and all he has given us is gift. None of us can say our creator owes us anything. Most of the time, we really want to praise him. We honestly want to thank him. It is easy to love him.

It is more difficult to obey the phrase added in Leviticus and in the Gospel: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Our relationship with God is acted out in our relationship with each other and we often do not regard our neighbor as very lovable.  

The burden of loving the unloving and seemingly unlovable would be more than we could tolerate except for the grace given us in the Church.

St. Paul gives us hope by reminding us that not one of us is wholly innocent, and beyond the influence of sinners, but Jesus is. The Lord is the one who saves and our relationship with Christ is in the Church. At every Mass, we pray for all God’s “holy” Church. At the Eucharist, we celebrate who we are and who we can become. The words should be a challenge to us.

People will always come to tell us their hurts. They have the right to speak and we have the obligation to listen. At this Eucharist, we promise to help heal their hurts and to lead them to the altar. At this celebration, we are challenged to hold ourselves accountable for the face Christianity shows to those whose faith might falter. We pray for those who have the courage to announce their belief to the world and we ask for the courage to show a little more of our own.