31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
31st October, 2021
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Love That Comes From God.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Love is the heart of our faith and the fulfilment of every law. We gather to give thanks for the love we have been given, and to pray for the courage to be witnesses and sharers of that love.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Introduction to the reading: The events in today’s reading take place as the Israelites are camped on the shore of the Jordan River ready to enter the Promised Land. In a lengthy farewell speech, Moses stresses that they are faithful to the Lord after they have settled in their new land. The final words of this passage are especially dear to Jewish people who recite them several times a day, attach them to their doorposts, and wear them on their person.
A reading from the Book of Deuteronomy.
Moses spoke to the people, saying,
“Fear the Lord your God,
you and your children and your children’s children,
by keeping all his statutes and his commandments,
which I command you,
all the days of your life;
that your days may be prolonged.
Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them;
that it may go well with you,
and that you may multiply greatly,
as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you,
in a land flowing with milk and honey.
Hear, O Israel:
The Lord our God is one Lord,
and you shall love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
and with all your soul, and with all your might.
And these words which I command you this day
shall be upon your heart.”
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 18:2-3a.3bc-4.47 & 51ab (R. 2)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, Lord, my strength;
O Lord, my rock, my fortress, my saviour;
My God, my rock where I take refuge;
my shield, my saving strength, my stronghold.
I cry out, “Praised be the Lord!”
and see, I am saved from my foes.
The Lord lives, and blest be my Rock!
May the God of my salvation be exalted,
The Lord gives great victories to his king
and shows merciful love for his anointed.
R/. I love you, Lord, my strength.
Second Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28
Introduction to the reading: There were daily sacrifices of animals in the Jerusalem temple. There were offered by many priests who, when they died, were replaced by others. The author of the Letter to the Hebrews contrasts this with Jesus whose one sacrifice on the cross was for all people of all times.
A reading from the Letter to the Hebrews.
Brothers and sisters:
The priests (of the former covenant) were many in number,
because they were prevented by death from continuing in office;
but Christ holds his priesthood permanently,
because he continues forever.
Consequently, he is able for all time
to save those who draw near to God through him,
since he always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest,
holy, blameless, unstained,
separated from sinners,
exalted above the heavens.
He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people;
he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests,
but the word of the oath, which came later than the law,
appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
The word of the Lord.
If a man loves me, he will keep my word, says the Lord;
and my Father will love him, and we will come to him.
Gospel: Mark 12:28b-34
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark.
At that time:
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and asked him,
“Which commandment is the first of all?”
Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel:
The Lord our God, the Lord is one;
and 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.”
And the scribe said to him,
“You are right, Teacher;
you have truly said that he is one,
and there is no other but he;
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,
is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And after that, no one dared to ask him any question.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
Just recently the catechism teacher was talking to a class of eight-year-olds about the Ten Commandments. “Can you give me a Commandment with only four words?” she asked. “I know,” said a little girl: “No mask, no entry.” The discussion turned to family love and the teacher brought in the Commandment, “Honour your father and your mother.” Then she asked, “What about a Commandment that tells us how to treat our brothers and sisters?” A little boy who had two younger brothers was quick to answer: “I know,” he said, “You shall not kill.” 😊
There is a wonderful moment of coming together in today’s gospel. A scribe asks Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus gives his reply and the scribe gives his approval, “Well said, teacher….” At that moment there is a great agreement between the best of the Jewish and Christian traditions: that love of God has precedence over all other religious requirements, observances and loyalties.
This love of God requires the giving of our entire self and when it is given, love of neighbour will be the necessary and visible manifestation of our love for God.
Love of God is shown to be authentic and real when it is made visible in love of neighbour, God comes to us in a real way in the presence of our sisters and brothers.
The command to love God so completely doesn’t come as an instruction from a dictator God who just wants obedient slaves. You can’t demand such love by issuing a decree from on-high.
In the first reading, we heard Moses calling the people to such love because they have been freely chosen by God. For forty years they have wandered the desert and have come to know their God as a God of mercy and compassion. Moses is asking them to respond from their “heart, soul and strength,” already touched and transformed by God’s love.
The transformation caused by God’s love is so profound that it flows from us towards God and is expressed in love of neighbour. Like Moses, Jesus calls us to love God with our entire being because his life and death are an example of God’s love for each of us. He reminds us that God is the centre and abiding presence in our lives by quoting the “Shema,” Israel’s great affirmation of faith and love of God.
One imagines that the words taken from Deuteronomy come quickly to Jesus’ consciousness and lips because, as a devout Jew, he would have prayed the prayer each morning and evening, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” Jesus speaks the spirit of the Torah, his response to the scribe draws on Deuteronomy and confesses that love of God is our primary desire and goal.
The rabbis could count 613 commandments of the Torah. The word ‘Torah’ means ‘Teaching’ or ‘Law’ and refers to the first five books of the Old Testament – which are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Of these, 248 were positive in form – to perform an act. There are 365 negative laws or prohibitions – Do Not do that. The religious teachers debated which were more important commandments and which were less important. So, in religious circles a point of discussion would be: which of these commandments was “first” or most important. Hence the setting for the question the scribe asks Jesus.
In his response Jesus quotes two commands from the Hebrew scriptures and, in doing that, suggests that no one commandment can adequately answer the scribe’s question. By putting the two together Jesus also suggests that the two constitute one great commandment. Jesus wouldn’t have been perceived by devout Jews as ignoring the rest of the Torah. What they would have heard was Jesus’ way of simplifying the Law to help in its observance.
Leviticus 19:18 says: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbour as yourself. This is where Jesus gets the second commandment.
The second commandment assumes that people love themselves; that they protect, care for and tend to their own concerns. Jesus’ challenge is that we show this love to others. In the Old Testament there is a narrow sense of who the “neighbour” is; it would be family members, or those belonging to the nation. In Jesus’ teachings, especially in the parable of the Good Samaritan, he extends the sense of “neighbour” beyond any ethnic or religious confines.
For Jesus, love of God and neighbour are not “first” and “second” – they make one commandment greater than all the others.
The scribe understands and agrees with Jesus. He states that the law of love of God and neighbour is greater than any of the religious observances and laws concerning sacrifices.
Jesus says that the scribe has answered wisely about the superiority of love over any burnt offering in the Temple and then says to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” The scribe has shown wisdom and is in agreement with Jesus. Is there anything more to do?
The scribe will need to receive the kingdom as a child, as Jesus has taught. He will have to acknowledge he cannot earn entrance into the kingdom by any deed or observance; that he is totally dependent on God for the gift of membership in the kingdom. Then, as a member of the kingdom, he must live the commandment Jesus has taught about loving God and neighbour.
The new life that Jesus gives us is the gift of the Spirit and enables us to live the law of love.
From today’s Gospel reading:
Jesus said, “Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength….
You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”
Jesus invites us to see that God alone is our God. God alone gives meaning to our lives and so we are to love God totally – all of our heart, soul, mind and strength. Living in that love, we are to love ourselves and one another. Nothing is greater than this embracing love, and to teach our young ones about this God, is the greatest gift we can leave them.
So we ask ourselves:
- What legacy are we hoping to leave our children?
- Will they remember the full and rich love we had for God and our neighbour, and the many ways we expressed that love?
- Do they perceive that love of God and love of neighbour is the fundamental
- value of our lives?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” And so it is with great assurance that we bring the world’s needs to the Lord.
We pray for the whole Church, that we may sincerely seek to love both God and others so that the reign of God may draw near.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the nations of the earth: that all peoples may learn to live together in peace and love each other as sisters and brothers.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for discernment for the Municipal Elections on the 1st November:
that we may choose leaders who keep in the ways of truth, and work for the common good and an end to corruption.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for those who have not known much love in their lives, or who have been let down by those they love: that their wounds may be healed and their self-confidence renewed.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the disadvantaged, the sick, and the homebound: that we may generously assist them and offer encouragement and support to them.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Luke Routier who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray for peace in Southern Africa
O God of justice and love,
bless us the people of Southern Africa
and help us to live in your peace.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love;
where there is injury let me sow pardon;
where there is discord let me sow harmony.
grant that I may not so much seek to be understood,
as to understand,
to be loved as to love,
to receive sympathy as to give it.
For it is in giving that we shall receive,
in pardoning that we shall be pardoned,
in forgetting ourselves
that we shall find unending peace with others.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Lord our God,
you are the one God and there is no other.
Give us grace to hear and heed
the great commandment of your kingdom,
that we may love you with all our heart
and love our neighbour as ourselves.
We make our prayer through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.