31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 12:28B-34

Love God and Neighbor

The reading from Deuteronomy gives us the famous command to love God above all else. This command is reiterated in the gospel story when one of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe agrees with Jesus’ answer repeating the same commandments back to Jesus.

Jesus tells him he is close to the kingdom of God. I believe that the scribe realized the priority of love of God and neighbor over cultic obligations and that this moves him beyond the limitations of the law. This is something our leaders in all fields need to be aware of as decisions are made based on narrowness of the law.

The response to the greatest commandment is really two-fold rather than two separate parts. To love God with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength has to include love of neighbor or else love of God becomes limited. Asking the question “Who is my neighbor?” is crucial in our society today where divisions of all kinds are rampant. If we exclude one single person from our understanding of who is our neighbor, we are failing in understanding the command. It doesn’t matter if a person is black, yellow, red, gay or straight, rich or poor, male, female, or transgender, Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, or any other religious belief, or atheist. All are our neighbors. We may not always agree with them or understand them but God’s love calls us to love them as they are. This love includes respect.

The love of God demands a totality of our whole being without any reservation. A lot of us have some restricted areas of our lives where we would not like the Love of God to shed its light upon. For it to have been included that we shall love God “with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our strength” means a total surrender of all that we are. I would also add here that we have to express our love of God with all our titles, our professions, our wealth. The fact is that in the lives of many are found today expressions that depict: “God I give you everything except …” I give you everything but this, my business, God take all except this or that.” What is your own exception? St James warns that to keep the whole commandments and be guilty in one is to be guilty of all. (Source unknown)

Who is the neighbor that needs your understanding and respect?

How do you show God’s love and respect to everyone you meet?

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