31 Sunday in Ordinary Time
November 4, 2018
Seventy-two hours of the last full week of October, 2018, will long be remembered as among the darkest days in American history. At least they should be.
It began on Monday, when the first of several suspicious packages that would be delivered to various prominent Americans over the next few days was discovered on the front steps of one of those targeted. The packages contained what appeared to be pipe bombs.
Wednesday, a gunman failed in efforts to break into The First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, Kentucky, home to a predominantly black Christian community. Determined to vent his hatred, he simply walked into the nearby Kroger Store and opened fire on African Americans in the middle of grocery shopping. Two men died.
Finally, on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, a gunman attacked worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eleven worshippers were killed and several others seriously injured.
If they had not already, the people gathered in prayer were about to pray The Shema. This is a prayer inspired by Deut. 6:2-6, also referred to by Jesus in this week’s Gospel (Mark 12:28). The name for this prayer is the Hebrew word for “hear” or “listen,” the first word of the passage. The Shema is a declaration or profession of faith in the One True and Living God. It is a centerpiece of Jewish liturgy, comparable to The Apostle’s Creed or the Lord’s Prayer.
The observant Jew sees the recitation of The Shema as a daily obligation. The Shema is prayed morning and night…and is kept close at all times; always on the mind, in the heart, and on the lips.
We tend to think of prayer as a way for us to talk to God. But Jesus doesn’t call The Shema a prayer. The Lord identifies this passage from the Old Testament as “The First,” in other words, the greatest, of all the commandments. And then, He takes a further step and stretches this “Law of Love” to include all humanity.
As this infamous final week of October 2018 came to a close, federal and state prosecutors were busy framing charges against those accused, who survived the violence they caused. We hear words like hate crime, domestic terrorism, obstruction of religious freedom, in addition to murder and manslaughter. The death penalty is being sought. Spiritually…if they can’t find it within themselves to seek forgiveness, the perpetrators of these crimes are already sentenced to death. These unthinkable acts of violence are indefensible violations of God’s commandment to live in love. The only hope for reprieve is conversion and contrition.
While few respond to the feelings of hatred with such ferocity, even fewer can honestly say that they have survived 72 consecutive hours without violating The First…the greatest of all commandments. Moreover, even fewer can honestly say that they have perfectly observed “The Second”…in spite of the fact that there is no other greater commandment than these!
This is a commandment…an obligation from God! LIVE IN LOVE! If everyone in the world were to obey these commandants for just 72 hours…think of how this world would be!