Love “with all your heart,and with all your soul,and with all your strength” (Dt 6:6)

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Deuteronomy 6:2-6

Moses spoke to the people, saying:"Fear the LORD, your God,and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey. "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. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today."

Hebrews 7:23-28

Brothers and sisters: The levitical priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, but Jesus, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away. Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them. It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

Mark 12:28B-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: 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. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Love “with all your heart,and with all your soul,and with all your strength” (Dt 6:6). This week’s readings remind us what love is and challenge each one of us,wherever we are on our life’s journey,to love humbly,courageously,passionately and unconditionally.

What is love? Is it a priceless diamond ring or a beautiful bouquet of flowers? A mug of hot chocolate on the coldest day? A grandmother’s hand-knitted sweater? Mom’s special soup? What about a willingness to walk with someone in their darkest hours? Standing by someone when everyone else has abandoned them? I believe it is all of the above! Indeed,love takes effort and courage.

In the Gospel of Mark,Jesus commends the scribe that he is not “far from the kingdom of God”,when the scribe “answered with understanding” to the question of the most important commandment – love (Mk 12:34). The ultimate destination of love is God,“‘to love [God] with all your heart,with all your understanding,with all your strength,and to love your neighbour as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (Mk 12:33).

To love God with everything we have and love our neighbours as ourselves are the most important commandments of all. When Mary accepts Simeon’s mysterious words at the Temple,“and a sword will pierce your own soul too”,and thirty-three years later,gazes upon her son crucified and accepts Jesus’ last words,“Woman,here is your son”,that puts her in John’s care,love is made concrete by Mary’s humility and vulnerability (Lk 2:35,ref. Jn 19:26). Mary embraces her mission and loves with all her heart,soul,understanding,and strength.

Peter,who first boldly proclaims his loyalty to Jesus,“Lord,I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!”,later denies Jesus three times in the high priest’s courtyard (Lk 22:33). Peter,like all the others,has abandoned Jesus. After realizing what he has done,“he went out and wept bitterly” (Lk 22:62). Peter’s gut-wrenching sobs reveal his deep love for his beloved teacher and friend. Is he weeping for himself or Jesus? If Peter doesn’t love Jesus,he would not have wept so bitterly out of a broken heart. Indeed,Peter’s heart is broken by both his deep love for Jesus and his own weakness; recognizing his own lack of courage to love at such a pivotal moment. Nonetheless,Jesus lifts him up from his brokenness and makes him whole again. Indeed,love takes courage. After His resurrection,Jesus asks Peter,“Simon son of John,do you love me more than these?” three times; to each Peter answers with conviction,“Yes Lord; you know that I love you”(Jn 21:15-17). These three ‘yeses’ may never erase the hurt caused by the first three ‘nos’; however we have good reason to believe that something more than human is happening here in this special reconciliatory process that Jesus administers for Peter. Each resounding ‘yes’ encourages Peter,and each one of us,to go on even when the going gets tough. One by one,each ‘yes’ heals the wound left behind by each “no”. In the final moments with Jesus,Peter steps up to the challenge,finally,and accepts the “belt” placed around him and his eventual “death by which he would glorify God” (Jn 21:19). Peter loves with all his strength as he treads the road of martyrdom.

What is love,then? Love is when Mary walks the final hours with her son; when Peter weeps bitterly for betraying his teacher and friend; love is when Jesus prays,“My Father,if it is possible,let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want” (Mt 26:39).

Posted: October 31, 2021

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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