Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 31, 2021 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Deuteronomy 6:2-6 Psalm 18:2-4;47-51
Hebrews 7:23-28 Mark 12:28B-34

+ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN.

Of all the professions today, the one that is typically viewed as the most unscrupulous is that of lawyers or attorneys. Fr. David is a retired attorney and he will attest to the contempt he received during his career from many people.

In today’s Gospel from Mark, Jesus encounters a lawyer, who in the time of Jesus, was known as a scribe, or a class of well-educated Jews who studied and explained the law, who like Fr. David, does not meet the description most people hold of a lawyer.

The lawyer we meet in today’s Gospel wants to help others and do his best for them. So he asks Jesus, “which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus answers him by stating what we heard in today’s First reading from Deuteronomy, “Love the Lord, your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”

But then Jesus adds a second commandment: “To love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

Today’s first reading ends with the most famous call, known in Hebrew as Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel). This call is used as the Jewish morning and evening prayer and also is used in some Christian prayers.

Since Jesus was a Jew, He prayed this same prayer daily and used the same words in today’s Gospel It is a call to obey God and to love Him! Moses tells us that the way to eternal life if by being faithful to God and obeying His commandments.

Our second reading from Hebrews proclaims the eternal priesthood of Jesus, contrasting it to the priests of the Old Testament who offered daily sacrifices, whereas Jesus offered Himself once for all because He loves us. Now He lives forever to intercede on our behalf. Jesus remains our eternal High Priest.

What does the commandment, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” mean to you?

There is a story about three men who were sailing together in the Pacific Ocean. Their vessel was wrecked and they found themselves on an island. They had plenty of food, but their existence was in every way different from what their lives had been in the past. The men were walking by the seashore one day after they had been there for some months and found an ancient lantern. One man picked it up. As he began to rub it and clean it, a genie popped out and said, “Well, since you have been good enough to release me, I will grant each one of you one wish.”

The first man said, “Oh, that’s perfectly marvelous. I’m a cattleman from Wyoming and I wish I were back on my ranch!” POOF! He was back on his ranch.

The second man said, “Well, I’m a stockbroker from New York and I wish that I were back in Manhattan.” POOF! He was back in Manhattan with his papers, his telephones, his clients, and his computers.

The third guy was somewhat more laid back and relaxed about life and actually had rather enjoyed life there on the island. He said, “Well, I am quite happy here. I just wish my two friends were back!” POOF! POOF!

So, which of these three men followed Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbor as ourselves? The first two men were not quite ready to forego their earthly desires to dwell in a place encompassing the Spirit of God, but God definitely had other plans for them!

In order to love our neighbor as ourselves, we have to help support, forgive, encourage and pray for everyone without regard for discrimination based on color, race, gender, age, wealth or social status.

The most famous verse in Leviticus is probably the commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself.” It suggests that as well as working to provide for ourselves and our families, we need to also serve others through our work. This is our highest call: to work as much for others as we work for ourselves.

The scribe or lawyer in today’s Gospel did this and that is why Jesus told him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” The Gospel of Matthew refers to it as the Kingdom of Heaven out of reverence to God held by the Hebrew people who prohibited the use of the word God in reference to anything.

From the coming of Jesus to begin the Kingdom, we are told the story through the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Kingdom of God refers to the rule of Jesus on earth, the blessings that come from living under His rule and all the subjects of His Kingdom, namely the Church.

The Kingdom of God and its equivalent the Kingdom of Heaven is one of the key elements of the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. The Gospel of Mark indicates that the Gospel is the Good News about the Kingdom of God. It is love that characterizes the Kingdom of God.

According to “My English”, love is our moral character and we can show it by the way we act and treat other people. Wikipedia says love encompasses a range of strong and positive emotional and mental states from the most sublime virtue or good habit, the deepest interpersonal affection, to the simplest pleasure.

Jesus gives us a great commandment today: love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. He requires both, since they are the pinnacle of our lives, the most important thing. They are what gives us entry into the Kingdom of God.

If we are to follow Jesus’ teachings, we need to work at Love. It’s difficult to love a stranger and even more so to love someone who offends us or even harms us. But that is what Jesus does, and what He wants us all to do.
So, today, let’s go out and work on our love of God and everyone, just as Jesus loves us!