Sunday, November 05, 2006

Sunday word

31st Sunday of Year(5 Nov 2006) Dt 6. 2-6; Ps 18; Hb 7. 23-28; Mk 12. 28b-34
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Most Worthy Worship

What are the convictions in today’s gospel selection? First, God is one. The one God is the God of Israel and our God, to whom both Israel and we belong. Second, oneness requires our total response of love, with all your heart, which Deuteronomy enjoined and Jesus echoed. Third, oneness of God, of Israel, of us--the new Israel, the church--and another oneness, singleness of heart, include love of all others (the neighbor in scripture’s lingo) and the rest of God’s creation.

Not only are those the convictions revealed by scripture. Jesus, the revelation of our triune God in flesh and blood, identified himself with this command of our God.

Mark’s first hearers would have heard Jesus’ perfect loyalty to God and Israel. It would have brought Jesus and the scribes closer than ever in his mounting debate with them near the close of his ministry. Indeed the scribe who questioned Jesus made that clear for he answered Jesus, “Well said, Teacher...You are right in saying that the Lord is One and no other...And to love the Lord with all your heart... understanding...strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is the most worthy worship.

That does not devalue the worship we do here. It is different to gather and worship our God around the tables of God’s word and God’s son. Even here we worship one way our one God in two different styles, to paraphrase St. Augustine, namely word and eucharist. Both “are so closely connected with each other that they form one single act of worshp.”/1/

Yet our worship here is not our only worship. In fact, our worship here commissions us to leave here in order to worship in deed and truth. We hear our commission variously: Go in the peace of Christ! Go, to love and serve the Lord! Go in faith, hope and love. Each one sends each member of the assembly “to do good works, praising and blessing [our] God./2/

But clarity about convictions does not erase our need to make decisions as we live our lives as Christians day to day. These decisions include: who is one’s neighbor? what is our understanding of love? how do I maintain the link between our God, our neighbors as well as the non-human aspects of our God’s creation? and, do I have a deepening felt knowledge that what I do between masses is truly worship, one which is better than any of our devotions?

The church’s liturgy--the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours--and all our devotions serve to make us more eloquent, faithful and active friends and disciples of Jesus, our high priest who lives forever to make intercession for us to God. This is our messiah Jesus’ unending, priestly action. To approach our God is simultaneously an act of faith and an act of service. Remember what Jesus echoed: to ‘love the Lord with all your heart... understanding... strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is the most worthy worship.

In your daily praying this week set aside 10 minutes to move closer to loving our one God with one heart; to our God who always moves closer to us out of love for us. As you consider the gifts our God lavishes on you each day to walk more closely with Jesus, ask Jesus to help you be more loving of our God, our neighbors and all created things in which our God acts for us. Converse with Jesus in your own words: offer our High Priest whatever causes you to resist his invitation to share his faithful, loving concern for others. Ask Jesus: to help you love with greater singleness of heart. Notice how Jesus responds to your brief praying and resolve to act on it in one concrete way that day.

To engage our God that way not only exercises all your heart, understanding and strength; it makes you a more agile and affectionate lover with Jesus of others and all creation. That, after all, is the most worthy worship!

1. Constitution on the Liturgy, #56 of the Second Vatican Council.

2. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, Third Typical Edition (the current edition the church follows), #90c.

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