"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
Nov. 4: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Synopsis: After their deliverance from slavery, the Israelites lived in the desert for 40 years where they gradually learned to trust God. As they were about to enter the Promised Land, Moses exhorted the people to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your strength.” The land they were about to enter was full of promise, but it was also full of temptations. The people would constantly be tempted to worship other gods, forsake the Lord and behave in immoral ways. They would have to renew their commitment every day if they were to resist temptation and be faithful to God. This week’s first reading contains the prayer known as The Shema (Hebrew: Listen!), which is the backdrop for the Gospel. The second reading continues the discussion of Christ as high priest. Unlike the Levitical priests who eventually died, Christ remains high priest forever. And unlike the Levitical priesthood, which disappeared after the destruction of the Temple, the priesthood of Christ endures. Therefore, believers in all times and places have access to God through faith in Christ who intercedes for them. In this week’s Gospel Jesus is challenged by the religious authorities to prove himself. A scribe tested him with a supposedly unanswerable question: What’s the first and most important law? According to tradition there were over 600 laws in the Torah. Jesus responds by quoting first from Deuteronomy, which we heard in the first reading, and the second from Leviticus 19:18. Jesus combines the two commandments in a way that links the love of God and love of neighbor so that they are forever inseparable.
Key verse: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “Faith in God’s love encompasses the call and the obligation to respond with sincere love to divine charity. The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him” (No. 2093).
Pope Benedict XVI: “In acknowledging the centrality of love, Christian faith has retained the core of Israel’s faith, while at the same time giving it new depth and breadth. Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere ‘command’; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us. In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant” (“Deus Caritas Est,” 1).
Life application: Love is a choice, as is faith. They go together. It took a long time for the people to believe in God and trust him. It took God’s definitive act of love revealed in Jesus Christ that people could come to love him as well. It’s still not easy to believe in God for a lot of people. But when they experience God’s love through concrete acts of charity and kindness the door of faith can begin to open.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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