♫“All We Need is (fill in the blank), Dah, Da, Da, Da, Dah ?!”♫ – Mark 12:28b-34†


31stSunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s Content:

  • ·        Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations
  • ·        Joke of the Day
  • ·        Today’s Gospel Reading
  • ·        Gospel Reflection
  • ·        Reflection Prayer 

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Dan’s Deliberations, Discoveries, & Declarations:

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions For 2012

 

General Intention: For ministers of the Gospel.

That bishops, priests, and all ministers of the Gospel may bear the courageous witness of fidelity to the crucified and risen Lord.


Missionary Intention: For the Pilgrim Church.

That the pilgrim Church on earth may shine as a light to the nations.

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Next Tuesday, November 4th, is “Election Day”.  I believe this is probably one of the major events of Christendom.  This date will literally effect how are community of faith will be allowed to identify itself, and how we, as individuals, will be able to practice our faith in our private and public lives. 

I fear for my Church and my ability to show my faith!!  It is being attacked overtly and covertly from many fronts today – – both secular and political.  There are two things we all MUST do for our own sakes, and for the sake of our Catholic faith: we need to pray (especially the Holy Rosary), and we need to vote with true Catholic values, virtues, and faith in mind.

Remember, are you saying to God, “Thy will be done” when it really means, “My will be done“?

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Joke of the Day:

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Today’s reflection: Jesus is questioned by a Scribe about the greatest commandment.  How well do you know – – and LIVE – – this “greatest of commandments”?

(NAB Mark 12:28-34) 28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel!  The Lord our God is Lord alone!  30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

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Gospel Reflection:

 

Whoa, last Sunday, we were reading about the “blind man” who receives his vision through his faith, from the tenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel.  And now, today, we have jumped way over to the end of the twelfth chapter.  If we were to read Chapters 11 and the first part of Chapter 12, we would hear about:

  • Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem;
  • His cleansing the Temple of merchants; and,
  • Previous questions of His “authority” and interpretations concerning “paying taxes” and “resurrection of the dead” by the Chief Priests, Scribes, and Elders. 

The context, therefore, for today’s Gospel is one of Jesus’ growing exposure and popularity with the pious Jews before the Jewish Temple leaders.  Thus, Jesus is being questioned and tested by the Jewish authorities, attempting to find a weakness to exploit in Jesus’ teaching of faith.  Surprisingly, the Scribe who addresses Jesus in today’s Gospel seems to be (or has become) an admirer.

Jesus’ “Words” are very simple and beautiful.  He tells us we should have a faith of inclusivity and welcome, not that of rules and regulations – – EVERYONE should be welcome!!  We are told in today’s reading of Jesus’ teaching on two commandments: loving God and each other.  How hard is Jesus’ “Words” to truly abide by?  Well, I sense that many times in our lives, our faith is based NOT on loving each other as God loves us, but instead, on deciding who is IN and who is OUT of our lives.

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Today’s Gospel reading is a dialogue between Jesus and a Scribe who is impressed by the way in which Jesus has conducted Himself in answering the question asked of Him:

Which is the first of all the commandments?” (Mark 12:28).

This devoutly pious Scribe (a “scholar [or interpreter] of Mosaic Law”) compliments Jesus for the answer He gives him (Mark 12:32).  This Scribe is said by Jesus to be “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34).

The Temple Leaders prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements.  They made it a life-time practice to study the 613 precepts of Jewish Scripture (our Old Testament), along with the numerous rabbinic commentaries THEY created.  I believe this particular Scribe – – this inquisitor – – was on a mission from the Pharisees, testing Jesus by asking his specific question, a question the Pharisees believed would be impossible to answer correctly.  However, Jesus’ response or answer, by repeating Moses words, caused NO conflict whatsoever with the Scribes’ Jewish religious teaching.  The Scribes reaction to Jesus’ is one of praise for Him.

Why would the question asked by the Scribe be impossible to answer correctly?  Well, for the devout Jew, ALL the commandments (and there were 613 of them) were to be kept with equal obedience and care.  There really is NO “first of all commandments” for the pious Jew.  This question required Jesus to interpret the Law of Moses.  Mosaic Law consists of the Ten Commandments and many additional commandments, numbering 613 precepts or laws.  For a devout Jew, adherence to the Mosaic Law is a continuous, life-long attempt at expressing one’s faithfulness to God’s covenant with Israel through very specific behaviors.  The ranking of these commandments was regularly debated among the teachers of Mosaic Law: but ALL laws were treated as equal in observance.

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Jesus startled the Pharisee with His profoundly simple answer; and, with His obvious mastery of Mosaic Law – – Jesus’ answer revealed its true purpose.  So, Jesus is revealing that God simply requires of us to love as He loves, and that God is pure love; and that everything He does flows from His love for us!  God loved us first and our love for Him is a response to His personal, uniquely intimate way of expressing His exceeding mercy, grace, and loving kindness towards each of us. 

Interestingly, Jesus was not the only Jewish religious teacher – – rabbi during this time – – to connect these two commandments: first, the “love of God”, and second, the “love of neighbor”.  Both of these commandments were (and are) central elements of Jewish religious tradition from which Jesus learned in His youth, from His foster-father and the rabbi of Nazareth.  So, Jesus, along with ALL observant Jews (and still today), were educated on this specific precept from Deuteronomy regarding the love of God:

Hear, O Israel!  The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4–5).

Since the “Lord alone” is God, “Israel” (the Jewish “chosen” people) need to love Him with an undivided heart, being, and strength.  Indeed, even still today, this commandment (and the other love commandment) continues to be the central aspect of contemporary Jewish religious understanding.  

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The second commandment, “love of neighbor”, is a precept from Leviticus:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18);

Jesus’ response to His questioners proposed a fundamental and vital connection between these two precepts from Mosaic Law.  “Love of God” finds its expression IN OURlove for neighbor”.  I suspect however, that this integral linking of these two commandments was perceived in a newly rejuvenated and fresh way when Jesus taught on this issue in today’s reading.  There had to have been at least one “Ah-ha” moment for this Scribe during this discourse with Jesus.  The “love of God” comes first, and the “love of neighbor” is firmly grounded IN the “love of God”.  The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what He loves   and reject what is harmful, hateful, and contrary to His loving will and plan for each of us.  

For this curious and discerning Scribe, Jesus illustrated, through His answer, the superiority of love over legalism from God’s (and from Moses’) point of view.  The “love of God” must engage the total person (heart, mind, and soul).  However, Jesus goes beyond the extent of the question put to Him, joining to the greatest and first commandment, a second commandment, that of “love of neighbor”:

Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people.  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18).

The double commandment is the source from which the “whole law” flows.

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A part of the Scribe’s reply to Jesus puzzled me:

“‘To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices (Mark 12:33).

I believe the Scribe was alluding to Psalm 40:

Sacrifice and offering you do not want; you opened my ears.  Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request; so I said, ‘See; I come with an inscribed scroll written upon me.  I delight to do your will, my God; your law is in my inner being!’ (Psalm 40:7–9).

Obedience to God’s law of love is far better than any “burnt offering and sacrifice”.  I believe that Saint Paul understood this law of love taking precedence over the laws of “burnt offerings”.  Here is what he writes:

 “For this reason, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in.  Then I said, “As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.”’  First He says, ‘Sacrifices and offerings, holocausts and sin offerings, you neither desired nor delighted in.’ These are offered according to the law.  Then he says, ‘Behold, I come to do your will.’  He takes away the first to establish the second (Hebrews 10:5-9).

Notice, Jesus identifies Himself as the “ONE” “written” about “in the scrolls”; Jesus reveals the primacy of loving God (and neighbor) over the value of “holocausts and sin offerings”, which (Jesus reveals) God really “did not desire” nor “delighted in”.  So, Paul understood God, through Jesus Christ, was taking away the first laws of legalism to establish the NEW law of LOVE!!

Therefore, Jesus Christ is taking away the “burnt offering and sacrifice”, establishing Himself as the new “Sacrifice”, redeeming ALL from the sin of this world!!!  This is AWESOME!!!

No wonder then that with the last verse in today’s dialogue, the debate with the Jewish authorities comes to an abrupt end:

No one dared to ask Him any more questions” (Mark 12:34).

Were the Temple leaders finally humbled by Jesus’ “Words”?  I don’t think so.  Envy still had a tight grasp on many of the Pharisees and Scribes, as we will see when Jesus is arrested after the “Last Supper”.

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The Scribe who questions Jesus in today’s Gospel engaged in a positive dialogue with Him, giving Jesus the opportunity to express an important – – the MOST important – – precept or law of, from, and about God!.  What is interesting for me is that most Catholics (and other Christians) today believed Jesus was hated by all the Temple leaders; absolutely NOT TRUE!!  I suspect Jesus had MANY friends and advocates among the three groups of Temple leaders: the Pharisees, the Scribes (who were the interpreters and lawyers for the Pharisees), and the Sadducees.

This Individual Scribe agreed with Jesus’ teaching about “loving God” and “loving neighborbeing the first and greatest of commandments.  He agreed with Jesus that these two “connected” laws or precepts even surpass the 613 commandments having to do with certain behaviors for surviving in the desert and other laws pertaining to animal and other sacrifices in the Temple.  

From Jesus’ response to the Scribe’s question, we learn that faith in God – – and hope in His promises – – strengthen us in expressing our “love of God”, for God, and for our neighbor (and even for ourselves). Faith, hope, and love are essential for a good and proper relationship with God.  Faith, hope, and love unites each of us with Him in a unique and intimate way.  The more we know of God – – the more we love Him – – and the more we love God, the greater we believe and hope in His promises.  

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Jesus Christ, through the grace and actions of the Holy Spirit, gives to each of us a new freedom to love as He Himself loves!!  Is there anything keeping you from the “love of God” and the JOY of serving others with a generous heart?    If so, remove it for your existence, for nothing is more important than the “love of God”.  Let us remember what Saint Paul said in his letter to the Romans:

“Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:5

As Catholic Christians, our moral behavior should be guided by the two-part commandment taught by Jesus in today’s Gospel: “love God” and “love your neighbor as yourself”.  I believe many of us use this “love” framework within the “greatest of the commandments” as an examination of conscience each night and during each Sacrament of Reconciliation.   By examining our lives through the auspices of these two universal commandments, we learn of the challenges in following these precepts as well.  We often desire to NOT follow these coupled laws; but in our capacity as faith-filled Catholic Christians, we need to attempt at consistently honoring these commandments in our daily lives, renewing this commitment DAILY, and sometimes even moment-to-moment.

So, here is a challenge for each of you; let me know how successful you are in executing this challenge.  For one week, identify and collect news reports of how Christians (not just Catholics, but ALL Christians) show their love for God by loving and serving their neighbor.  (This will definitely be a challenge with our present secular news agencies and their anti-religious bias.) 

Think about ways in which you might contribute to the examples of “Christian service” which you hopefully found in the news reports.  Choose one of the actions you came up with or discovered in your search, and do the action yourself.  Let me know what action you came up with, and how you executed that action in your life and area. 

Finally, let us pray together in asking for God’s help in showing our love to our family, friends, and others we meet.  IT’S JUST THAT SIMPLE!!!

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Reflection Prayer: 

Act of Love

“O my God,
I love you above all things
with my whole heart and soul,
because you are all good
and worthy of all my love.
I love my neighbor as myself
for the love of you.
I forgive all who have injured me
and I ask pardon
of those whom I have injured.
Amen.”

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