Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time (31 Oct.)

Readings. Deut 6:2-6 ; Heb 7: 23-28; Mk 12 : 28-34

Clearly, the first reading and the gospel could not be more closely linked. Each gives us the central nub of both Jewish and Christian faith, the basic tenet of both religions, and a text Jews in particular literally live with daily.

Reflecting on the Deuteronomy passage, I began to see (or create?) a marked distinction, if not contradiction, between the first part and the second. The first admonishes the people to obey all the commandments, laws and rules of their religion so that they may be rewarded with prosperity and a long life – always seen at that time as a mark of God’s favour. The second part calls not for obedience but for whole-hearted love, and there is no promised reward. Love does not seek or need a reward. The first we will recognise as the ‘way’ mostly presented to us and heavily emphasised in our Catholic formation: keep the commandments and all the rules and you will be rewarded in heaven. That’s what it’s all about. But surely the second version is closer to the ‘way’ of the kingdom preached by Jesus.

In the gospel, in response to the question posed by the scribe, Jesus endorses whole-hearted love of God as the first commandment but adds a second as essentially connected – love of neighbour as self. Perhaps the scribe expected Jesus to come up with something new or different but he admits that Jesus is true to the Torah. In reciting back Jesus’ response, he has immediately taken on board the addition of love of neighbour. He also adds a notable comment making explicit that this is more important than following laws and rules- even of worship.

Perhaps this is why Jesus can say, in what is surely an understatement, he is not far from the ‘kingdom’. If he lives by his conviction he is in the ‘Kingdom’ and the ‘kingdom’ is in him.

Genevieve Mooney O.P.


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