1st Reading: Deuteronomy 6:2-6; 2nd Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28; Gospel: Mark 12:28-34
THEME: TO LOVE IS TO SACRIFICE OUR LIVES FOR GOD AND OTHERS.
In our cotemporary world, many people are always longing for peace, tranquility, prosperity, happiness and God’s blessings in their lives. They always want to be loved and cared for, and also to acquire the best in the world. However, some of them fail to unlock the gate which paves way for such stupendous blessings from God, even when they know it.
In the FIRST READING, Moses explored the meaning of God’s commandment which should be obeyed, in order to gain divine blessings. He told the Israelites to always remember God (One Eternal and Supreme Being), who out of His infinite love and mercy, saved them from bondage in Egypt. He exhorted them with the great SHEMA. “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 strength (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).” He urged them to remain faithful to Him, have reverence for Him and not apostatize.
Meanwhile, this Shema is the Jewish confession of faith, which, together with appropriate prayers, forms an integral part of their morning and evening services; with a call to learn, to study and to observe God’s commandments. It is the bedrock of deuteronomic theology in which love is almost synonymous with obedience to God’s will, which paves the way for prosperity (physical & Spiritual), but disobedience to God’s will leads to curse and death.
In the GOSPEL, in response to the scribe’s cunning question, Jesus quoted the SHEMA as the greatest and the first of the commandments, and the second is: “You shall love your neighbour (God’s Creature) as yourself (Mark 12:31).” These underscore the basic inner dispositions of the disciples. Besides, to know and understand God’s commandments like the scribe, which are the prerequisite for gaining divine blessings and subsequently, eternal life; are not enough. But practicing them out of love, with great reverence and obedience gives us full access to divine blessings and eternal life. Yes, we should obey God out of love, and not necessarily for fear of eternal damnation.
Moreover, to have reverence for God means to place oneself in front of Him in attitude of self-giving and trust, and of acceptance of His divine will. This confronts us with great urgency, and demands a personal response, which is faith in God as well as reciprocating the love He has showered upon us, by giving us His beloved Son Jesus Christ, who, out of love, sacrificed His life in order to redeem humankind. To love Him also means to accept His gifts, share in His plan for humanity, that is, salvation of souls (salus animarum), and to become instruments of His genuine Love for humanity.
The SECOND READING highlights how Jesus Christ, the Superior High Priest, out of love and obedience to God, humbly and patiently sacrificed His life, and bore His sufferings in order to save humanity. His sacrificial death on the cross has obtained once and for all, an everlasting freedom for all mankind. Moreover, His priesthood (new order), which is heavenly, eternal and spiritual in nature, is being contrasted with that of the Aaron’s priesthood (old order), which was earthly, temporal and carnal. His self-offering for our sins is not to be repeated, unlike the old order where the high priests offered daily or yearly sacrifices for their sins and for the people, but His sacrifice has been made perfect forever.
As a proof of God’s Love for us, Christ died for us even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). So, anyone who claims to love, sacrifices of his or her time, energy, resources, etc, should be the basis for such love. Remove the sacrifices, then there is no love, and where there is no love, there is no Christianity. These will definitely pave way for God’s blessings, prosperity and finally eternal life.
Finally, since Christ has suffered for us out of love, we too should emulate His footsteps and reciprocate that love, by obeying God’s commandments which hinge on: love of God and love of neighbour. In fact, the proof of our love for God is the love we show to our fellow human beings. For we cannot claim to love God whom we have not seen while we hate our fellow human beings, it is not true (1 John 4:20). Loving our neighbor means to sacrifice our life for their wellbeing, and to always forgive them when they offend us. These are what pave the way for stupendous blessings from God and eternal life at the end.
Therefore, I pray that the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit, may grant you the grace to Love Him and your fellow human beings sincerely, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!!!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.