31st Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 4, 2018 (Thoman)
Dt. 6:2-6 | Heb 7:23-28 | Mk 12:28b-34
I. For some odd reason, this past week I ended up on a website which listed the
oldest words in the English language. Guess which word is the oldest, or at least
among the oldest, words? The first word they named was “love.” How they
know that, I don’t know, but it can be found in use before the year 900. They
said that is probably because people were trying to describe relationships. That
just shows how fundamental human relationships are.
Our scriptures today talk about that fundamental reality and use the word
“love” to describe that reality: love of God, love of each other, love of self. What
is meant by love in this scriptural context is not the surface level, romantic love,
emotional love, but the hard decision to love. Love isn’t just thinking nice things
about God or others, or having warm feelings in the heart, but following through
and living them in action. As Moses says in the first reading, “Take to heart
these words which I enjoin on you today.” This is a call to commitment.
II. In the gospel Jesus reaches back into the book of Deuteronomy to respond to the
scribe’s question. As we listen to the beginning of this conversation we might
expect this to be the typical conversation Jesus has with the scribes and
Pharisees. We expect the scribe will be trying to trip up Jesus – but this was no
trick question; it is, actually, one of the hot button issues of the day: how do I
live the commandments - which one or ones are most important? So it sounds
like the scribe was genuinely asking Jesus for some guidance.
Jesus responds with the great Shema – the central belief, and even prayer, of
the Jewish people. It was kind of like a pledge of allegiance to God. The scribe
and all Jews would have instantly recognized it. It was set in their hearts just as
firmly as the sunrise and sunset in the sky.
That declaration of love for God is followed by that call to commitment. Love
for God can’t just be words: it must also be action.
IV. The fundamental human experience of love calls us forth. Whenever we are the
beneficiaries of someone else’s love we feel an invitation to love. There is a tug
on our heart that we should respond. When we are faced with the decision of
whether or not to truly love, Mother Teresa suggests we try to discover in
them the image of God and he face of Jesus. Mother Teresa tells this story
which illustrate her point:
- it happened on a trip to Venezuela
- a wealthy family had given her community land on which to build a
- so, when she went to thank the family, she met the children as well.
- The oldest child was severely disabled.
- “What is his name?” she asked the mother. His name, said the mother is
‘Professor of Love.’” It is ‘Professor of Love’ because this child is always
teaching us how to express love in action.” Professor of Love.
- as we go through life, we will meet many professors of love. How will we,
and do we, respond?
V. Our gathering today is because of love. We come to pray for our deceased loved
ones precisely because of love – our love for them and their love for us. If there
had never been a love relationship, we wouldn’t have bothered to be here.
At some point there was the beginning of love. Each of us felt that invitation
to love and we responded – not just with warm thoughts and fuzzy feelings in
our hearts – but with action. It was a whole series of actions – actions lived out
over the years, most likely daily and perhaps even many times a day.
And we continue that love today. It is continued in our very action of being
physically present for this Mass. It is continued in our action of worship and
prayer for them at this Mass of Remembrance. And it will in the future in our
prayers for them.)
VI. Love calls us forth.
Jesus and the scribe seem to be in fundamental agreement. But Jesus says to
the scribe that he is “not far” from the kingdom of God. Why didn’t Jesus say he
was completely there?
Some scholars suggest that when Jesus saw the scribe answered “with
understanding,” the scribe was at the level of the intellect or the heart –
“understanding,” but not fully there in action. What was left required was
living it out. We are left hanging: we don’t know if the scribe took the next step
and made that decision to live out love in action.
VII. We come now to the Eucharist – the quintessential sacrament of love. Here we
participate in Jesus’ profound love for us. Jesus would do anything to love us.
His example is an invitation to love.
The depth of our love will tell us how close we are to the kingdom of God.
And the extent to which we love fully and completely, we are drawn into the
kingdom of God.
Fr. Dwayne Thoman