11-04-2018 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Nov 5, 2018
31st Sunday in OT / B / 2018 / Requiem
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
I want to welcome everyone to this special liturgy of love and remembrance—we remember our beloved dead, those buried from our Cathedral, but all the dead. And I might add in particular those who lost their lives in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. The sadness of this event—along with all of our stories of loss—brings us together this morning in a show of love and support. And how appropriate the Gospel is today—the Commandment of Love—that love of God and neighbor that heals the wounds of sin and division in our society. May God bring us peace. And may all the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen.
The Gospel today is fundamental to our life and faith as Christians. Jesus has a conversation with a "scribe," and the scribe asks Jesus a common question of the day, "Which is the first of all the commandments?"
The response of Jesus is well-known to us. It was the "Shema Israel." Hear, O Israel. The first two words of a passage from the Book of Deuteronomy (our first reading). "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone!" The Shema is the centerpiece of Jewish prayer in the morning and the evening. It is a fundamental statement of belief—for Jews and Christians—that God is One. What do we say in the Creed? "I believe in One God." It was traditional for Jews even to wear the Shema on their foreheads and arms and doorposts, to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night, to make it their own "last words" before they die.
To the Shema, Jesus adds this moral imperative: therefore, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength."
But Jesus doesn’t stop there. He adds a second moral imperative that completes the Law (from Leviticus 19:18): "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Why are these Old Testament words so important to us Christians? Because Jesus repeated them. Now, they are our commandments, Christian commandments. With the Jewish people, we claim them as our own.
This "greatest commandment" of the Law provides an important insight into our human condition—that to love and to be loved is fundamental to life and happiness. Love establishes communion among us, it promotes good health, psychological well-being, and harmony in society.
Couples in a happy marriage tend to live longer. We hear of people "dying of a broken heart," and now we know there is a scientific basis to this. We know that babies who are not held and caressed suffer physical and emotional harm. Love makes a difference.
A recent book called Social Intelligence (Daniel Goldman) says that our human brains are "wired to connect" with each other—a sort of natural wifi among us! Thus, we should be conscious of all of our human interactions and how we influence each other. Most important of all is our empathy—to connect with people and to feel for and with them, in good times and in bad.
Did Jesus have all of this in mind when he told us to love God and our neighbor? Who knows. But how different the world would be if we all lived the great commandment, love of God and love of neighbor.
"Hear, O Israel." Hear, O Christians. Make God the center of your life . . . and all else will follow.