'Their configuration to the Son of Man shines out brightly today in the whole Church.' Sunday Reflections, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B



SHEMA YISRAEL ADONAI ELOHEINU
ADONAI ECHAD [ U'SHEMO ECHAD ]
V'AHAVTA ET HASHEM ELOHEICHA
B'CHOL LEVAVCHA U'VCHOL NAFSHECHA
U'VCHOL MEODECHA

[YAIDA DAI YADA DAI YAIDADAI . . .]

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart (Deuteronomy 6:4-6).


Readings (New American Bible: Philippines, USA)

Readings (Jerusalem Bible: Australia, England & Wales, India [optional], Ireland, New Zealand, Pakistan, Scotland, South Africa)

Gospel Mark 12:28b-34 (New Revised Standard Version, Anglicised Catholic Edition)   

One of the scribes came near and asked Jesus, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.

Shema Yisrael, Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem [Wikipedia]


The first reading today is one the most important in the whole Bible for people of the Jewish faith. There is only one God. Only the Hebrews in the ancient Mediterranean world believed that. Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4-6 in his response to the scribe. These words are at the heart of Jewish prayer and are prayed by or spoken to a Jew when he is dying, reminding him of the most important reality of all, that God is God. The Hebrew for Hear, O Israel is Shema Yisraelשְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵלin Hebrew. Believing Jews pray or sing the Shema Yisrael, or Shema, just as Christians pray or sing the Our Father, the opening words giving their name to the whole prayer. Jews pray it twice a day and before sleeping

The setting of the Shema in the video above is modern and joyful. That in the video below is traditional, the singing a style that is very ancient, a style very similar to that used by Christians today in the Middle East and to that of Muslims. [The scenes in the video below are at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, also known as the Wailing Wall, where St John Paul II prayed on a visit to the Holy City.] Jesus would have prayed the Shema everyday and perhaps chanted it first as a child when St Joseph took him to the Temple and later when he went there as an adult.

And at the wedding in Cana Jesus would have danced with the other men in a style like that of the man in the video. The Shema is a profoundly joyful proclamation of faith in the one God.

The Western (Wailing) Wall, Jerusalem [Wikipedia]

I’ve often enough heard people creating a gap between the two great commandments, which are a summary of the Ten Commandments. There is no such gap. You shall love your neighbor as yourself is a consequence of you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart . . . just as in God’s plan being a father or mother is a consequence of being first of all a husband or wife.

In his homily at the opening of the Year of Faith on 11 October 2012 Pope Benedict said, Jesus is the centre of the Christian faith.The Christian believes in God whose face was revealed by Jesus Christ. He is the fulfilment of the Scriptures and their definitive interpreter. 

The testimony of the saints shows us men and women, young and old, even children, whose lives were focused on Jesus the Lord, God who became Man, and because of this gave themselves in the service of others. It is impossible to live the first great commandment without wanting to live the second. It is impossible to live the second without wanting to live the first.

On 21 October when he canonised seven new saints including St Pedro Calungsod, the young catechist-martyr from the central Philippines and St Kateri Tekakwitha, the first native North American saint, Pope Benedict underlined the mission of the saintsThe tenacious profession of faith of these seven generous disciples of Christ, their configuration to the Son of Man shines out brightly today in the whole Church. He used a term that St John Paul used many times in his apostolic exhortation of 1992, Pastores Dabo vobisconfiguration to the Son of Man.

St John Paul's document was about the ordained priesthood and he reminded priests in it a number of times that they were called to be configured to Christ. But here Pope Benedict is calling all of us to be such, that is to become, with God's grace, so like Jesus Christ that others will see him in us.

Jesus as he quotes the Shema in today's gospel is not calling us to be 'nice' to others, but to be configured to him. He is calling us to be able to say with St Paul, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice (Philippians 1:18).

Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh [Wikipedia]
On Saturday 27 October a gunman opened fire during a sabbath service in Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, USA, killing eleven worshippers. Let us pray for their souls and for those who mourn them.

With Judaism therefore we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers[From St John Paul II's discourse during his visit to the Rome Synagogue on 13 April 1986.]

The Holy Family, El Greco [Web Gallery of Art]

Four Jewish persons: Jesus, Mary, St Joseph and St Anne.

Our Shared Patrimony

Thanks to The Catholic Thing for the link to this address of St John Paul II at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, on 23 March 2000.

Jews and Christians share an immense spiritual patrimony, flowing from God’s self-revelation. Our religious teachings and our spiritual experience demand that we overcome evil with good. We remember, but not with any desire for vengeance or as an incentive to hatred. For us, to remember is to pray for peace and justice, and to commit ourselves to their cause. Only a world at peace, with justice for all, can avoid repeating the mistakes and terrible crimes of the past.

Continue here.

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