- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

November 4, 2018

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 12:28b-34

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today” (Deut. 6:4-6).

 We just heard these powerful words, spoken by Moses to the people who had accompanied him out of the land of slavery and bondage. Speaking heart-to-heart with each and every person, Moses pronounced a summary of religion: listening to the Word of the Lord with a docile heart. In a world enveloped in chaos and darkness, it is important that believers hold high the guiding light of faith. Having heard the Word and conformed our lives to it, we should help others find the way to the living and true God.

The anchor for the soul is vibrant faith in God, living and true. We are called to hold fast to the One God, even when church leaders are hypocritical and unfaithful. We are called to cling to the One God who is faithful even when we are not. When we are confronted with the scandal of the Church and the failure of Church leaders, it is important to remember these words taken from the Letter to the Romans: “God demonstrates his own love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Rom. 5:8). God who is love demonstrated His love for us by the self-sacrificing death of His Son. Hanging on the wood of the cross, Christ loved us with all his heart, with all his soul and with all his strength. Faith tells us that the One God, living and true, intends to complete the purpose of his self-sacrificing love, by saving all who love him in return.

Recall these words from Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will place himself under God’s authority, so that God may be all in all” (1 Cor. 15:28). He that is our all in all desires us to offer Him our all. The God who is love is one. It is urgent that our hearts must be united in his love. By the outpouring of divine grace, God expands our hearts with his love. God has faithfully done his part, now we need to probe the depths of divine life in our hearts and then bring it to the world we live in.

There is a Jewish legend about the death of Rabbi Akiva: As the Roman soldiers were torturing him, he recited the Jewish creed, “Hear, O Israel”. And here is the beautiful part of the story, His students asked him: “Our teacher, even now?!” He answered: The Shema teaches us to love God with all our souls (Deuteronomy 6:5), which I understood to mean “even if they are taking your soul.” My entire life I agonized over this verse: Would I really love God even if my soul were being taken? I at last have the opportunity to demonstrate this. How could I not do so now? And as the rabbi recited “the Lord is one” he gave up his spirit.

In Christ, we have been drawn close to the heart of the Father. We are called to love our Father in Heaven with our whole heart. God the Creator breathed us into life. We are called to Love the Creator of the Universe with our whole soul. Greater is He that is in us than he who is in the world. We are called to love the Triune God with all our strength. God is faithful to His Word. In the person of the Son, the Word Incarnate, God will abide with us, in our hearts, in our minds and in our whole being. Those who have heard the Word of God, must keep it in their heads and ponder them in their hearts and incarnate them in their lives. Love will be a commanding, constraining principle; and where love is, duty follows from a principle of gratitude. Loving God with all our heart will enable us to love all that God loves. Only when we entrust ourselves to the loving embrace of God that is extended to us through the Son can we hope to renew the face of the earth.

The Beloved Son reminds us that love of the Father is our primary purpose in life. We are urged to respond to God with our whole heart, with our whole soul and with our whole strength that have already been touched and transformed by God’s love. Our first loyalty is to God who so loved the world that He sacrificed His beloved Son. As the Son emptied Himself for love for us, we are to empty ourselves for love of Him. The Word became human to make the love of the Father tangible. Our love of neighbor will be the necessary and visible manifestation of our love for God. When our Love of God is made visible and tangible in our love of neighbor it is shown to be authentic. We must never forget that God comes to us concretely in the presence of our sisters and brothers. We need to rediscover the love of God. Then we will live the happiness that comes from abiding close to the heart of God.

The Lord Jesus became human for love of us; let us become truly human and fully alive for love of Him. In the concluding homily of the Synod of Bishops dedicated to young people, Pope Francis pointed out the authentic and most traditional way of mission: to bear witness with one’s life. We are called to carry out God’s work in God’s own way: in closeness, by cleaving to him, in communion with one another, alongside our brothers and sisters. We want to imitate Jesus and, like him, to dirty our hands. It is not Christian to expect that our brothers and sisters who are seekers have to knock on our doors. We ought to go out to them, bringing them not ourselves but Jesus. Faith has to do with encounter, not theory. In encounter, Jesus is met; in encounter, the heart of the Church beats. Then, not our preaching, but our lives will prove effective.

“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today” (Deut. 6:4-6).