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Spirituality of the Readings
Thirty-First Sunday
of Ordinary Time
November 4, 2018
John Foley, SJ
With All Your Heart

Most of us are accustomed to a world that ignores Jesus, God, religion, spirituality, fidelity, truth, etc.—in favor of something called “the bottom line.” Our culture answers Jesus’ question from last Sunday (“What do you want?”) with this: “money and success, maybe a large amount of both, and having people look up to me.”

We watch TV, we digitize everything, we enslave ourselves to our iPhones, and we render to everybody his or her own belief—which maybe amounts to no belief at all. Just don’t “get it on my yard.”

Our “values” might be something like this: (1) get enough people to listen, (2) sell a lot of advertising, (3) make a lot of money. And of course we end up sharing their outlook.

Some other cultures have and have had a far different answer to the question—“What do you want?” The readings this Sunday give evidence for a quite dissimilar set of values.

In the First Reading we will find the “bottom line” for the Hebrew religion in which Jesus was raised. It was not a seeking of money and power and riches.

Hear, O Israel!
The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!
Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.

When we are close to God, such a love must spill over to other people as well.
Of course not every one followed this call, but, “Hear, O Israel" was a centerpiece of all morning and evening Jewish prayer services. They were doing their best to believe in the only God!

In Deut 6:6ff, the portion that comes just after our Reading, Moses counsels his flock as a mother would her children about the above Reading:

And these words … shall be in your heart.
And you shall teach them diligently to your children,
and you shall speak of them when you sit at home,
and when you walk along the way,
and when you lie down and when you rise up.

And you shall bind them as a sign on your hand,
and they shall be for frontlets between your eyes.
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house
and on your gates.*

It was a basis for life. This speech was considered the most important prayer in Jewish services. It was the most important prayer in Judaism. It indicated vividly how Judaism believed in the one, single God.

What about Jesus? Did he too preach this foundation of Jewish belief?

Yes. Take a look at the Gospel. Jesus quotes the saying of Moses:

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, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.**

When we are close to God, such a love must spill over to other people as well. Could we followers of Jesus utter Moses’ and Jesus’ words and make them a basis for our own life?

Yes?

God has always loved all people in the world, throughout the entire bible. So, of course, the question is, what do we do with our own lives?

And to whom does it spill over?

________
 * This is a transliteration from Hebrew that I took from Tracey Rich, webmaster of http://www.jewfaq.org (an Orthodox perspective). To see the words in both Hebrew and in English, http://www.jewfaq.org/prayer/shema.htm.

** Of course, this sentiment is not missing from the Hebrew testament. See, for instance, Leviticus 19:18

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.
Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go http://www.ltp.org