When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together, and one of them,
a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?"
He said to him,
"You shall love the Lord, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
Thoughts from the cornfield:
From the Jewish virtual library:
The Shema is an affirmation of Judaism and a declaration of faith in one God. The obligation to recite the Shema is separate from the obligation to pray and a Jew is obligated to say Shema in the morning and at night (Deut. 6:7).
It was this prayer that Jesus was quoting. Many years ago, a friend asked me to be a commitment partner on his journey to becoming a lay minister. I was honored to do this because this man exemplified with his life, what it meant to serve God. Part of the process for John was to appear before the bishop, accompanied by his commitment partner. It was my task to introduce John to the bishop and explain why John would make an excellent lay minister. (I knew about the introduction, but not about the explanation.) Many of the lay ministers had priests as their commitment partners and their introductions were eloquent - and wordy. I became increasingly nervous about what I would say in introducing John. The Holy Spirit came to my rescue and gave me these word from the Gospel of Mark: "And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strenght: this is the first commandment, and the second is like it, you shall love your neightbor as yourself. "
This was how John lived his life. Ironically, as I think about today's Gospel, I also think about this time last year. John was an important part of the lifeblood of our parish. Every year at the end of October, John took it upon himself to print out the names of parishioners in our parish who had died in the previous year. He would use a huge font, laminate the names, and hang them in a column against a large white curtain. This curtain hangs in our sanctuary from November 1, until the beginning of the new liturgical year. The last conversation I had with John was about those names. He was in hospital and was worrying about how it would get done. I assured him that Bea and I would handle it. So Bea and I handled it. On Friday evening, I was working on the names when Bea called and said John wasn't doing very well. On Saturday morning she called again to tell me that John had passed away. John was 56 years old. With heavy hearts we hung the banner in the sanctuary. We tried and tried to make that banner look the way John always did it, but during John's vigil service, pieces of it fell down. Not all at once, just every 5 or 10 minutes or so. After the service, John's son Matthew approached us and said, "I would be honored to climb the ladder for my dad and fix the banner." Tomorrow commemorates one year since John's passing. We buried him on all saints' day. We have named him Saint John of Alma because if ever there was a saint on earth, John was it. We miss you "Cute John!" "Laudate Dominum!"
God bless our troops!