Gospel Lectio Divina for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 31, 2021

Gospel Lectio Divina for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Oct. 31, 2021

By David Kilby

READ


Mk 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.

 

MEDITATE

The Lord our God is Lord alone!

In ancient times, monotheism was still a relatively rare belief. So while it may sound common to our ears, when Jesus said this he was challenging the common polytheistic beliefs of the day. The Jews believed in only one God for hundreds of years, but they were the only ones. Other cultures did not believe there was just one God, and it was a serious offense to simply dismiss all the other gods of the Greeks and Romans. Entire temples were built for them. Epic stories were written about them. Today we think of it all as just part of ancient mythology, but polytheism was the religion of the Greeks, Romans, and several other cultures. For the scribes and Jesus to find common ground on the belief that there is only one God was a big deal. We may skim past these simple seven words that are widely believed today, but this belief would send ripples across the ancient world as Christianity spread to all the nations. 

 

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.

Who is this God we shall love with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength? If I am going to devote myself to him so completely, I ought to know him first. That’s the obstacle I so often stumble upon. I do not know why I should devote everything to him because I don’t know who he is. If I knew him as the Lord of all creation, perhaps then I would see why Jesus is saying what he is saying here. But, despite how much I try to convince myself that I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, I simply do not. I put many other loves before him, such as money, my own happiness, and my own will. It’s no wonder I have so much trouble getting to know God, and in turn I have great trouble loving him completely.

It is hard to put God first, and that’s why he reminds us to keep trying. In fact, he has been reminding us for thousands of years, long before Jesus told us to do so. Jesus does not deviate from the ten commandments. God’s first commandment which he gave to Moses is first for a reason. He did not tell Moses, “Here are the ten commandments in no particular order.” He is the God of order, so if putting him first was the first commandment he gave, that means it’s also the most important one. Jesus came to fulfill the ten commandments, not to render them obsolete. His testimony to the scribes attests to that fact.

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

If I love my neighbor with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength, how will there be any love left for me to love my neighbor or myself? It’s simple. When we love the source of love with all we have, he fills us with an abundance of love in return. Whatever we give him he returns a hundredfold. He cannot be outdone in generosity. Furthermore, when we love God we are in a way loving our neighbor as well. The two are not mutually exclusive. When I love God enough to donate to a Church charity, I am also loving my neighbor. When I love God, I start to see my neighbors through God’s eyes and to act toward them as Jesus would act, because when we love someone we tend to imitate them. Jesus distinguishes the two because we should not put love of neighbor before love of God. Our motives can only be vain if we do that. You’ve probably heard the saying, “some of the worst things imaginable have been done with good intentions.” That happens when we put our idea of good before God’s perfectly good will. When we put our neighbor before God, we end up doing what we think is good in our flawed sense of justice. When we don’t put God first, our own sense of goodness can easily become our God. When we do put God first, everything else falls in place. 

Nonetheless, loving our neighbor is still important. I once wondered why it’s okay for monks and cloistered nuns to shut themselves away in a convent or monastery for their whole lives to simply read and pray, not helping out their community. But it eventually became clear to me that prayer is one of the most impactful ways to help our neighbor. Prayer is heaven’s currency, and the more we pray for someone the more we help their souls get to heaven. In addition, many of those who live the monastic life do live in community with other monks and nuns. This can often be the most difficult way to practice love of neighbor, since they are dealing with the same people day in and day out--and it’s especially difficult if someone you have to live with has a habit you don’t like. Humbly, they consider this struggle to be a deeper call to holiness. This is an important lesson for our lives as well. When we think of loving our neighbors, we may think of someone across town or even the other side of the world. But let’s not forget about the actual neighbors right in our own neighborhood, and especially in our own household. 

 

PRAY

Lord my God,

You are Lord alone. While putting you first in my life is difficult, you give me the grace to do so if I simply ask. I am asking you now. Let my love for you overflow into my love of those in my life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

LISTEN

God wants to take over our lives and fill them with his divine love and joy. For this to happen we need to put him first in our lives and prefer his will over our own. To become everything God intended us to be, we need to get out of our own way. Let’s do what we need to do in this moment to silence ourselves and listen to God. 



Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report

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Glory to the Father The Son and The Holy Spirit