Homily – October 31, 2021

Behold O Israel the Lord our God is one; 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 strength. This prayer is called the Shema. Observant Jews say it many times a day.

You may see a little plaque on the doorpost of a Jewish home or apartment, this contains the Shema pray and people touch it as they enter or leave their home and pray the Shema.

This pray stressed the truth that God is one and that the Jewish people were not to be seduced into believing in the many gods in which their neighbours believed.

When the Scribe asked his question he was not trying to trap Jesus, he was just asking ‘what do you think?

Jesus’ answer was quick and to the point but he added words we need to hear today; you shall love your neighbour as you love yourself. The way John the Apostle put was, how can you say you love God, whom you have never seen, when you do not love your neighbour who you see? To put it another way; ‘how can you say you love God who you’ve never seen when you dismiss from your life the person sitting next to you on the bus or subway because of their color or the way they’re dressed or their mannerism?

We need to hear these challenging words of Jesus and John and ask ourselves how they challenge our own way of relating to other people of other faiths, other national origins.

There was article in the Star last week on the rise of acts of violence against places of worship; mosques and temple, synagogues and churches vandalized and defaced with racist slogans, what’s behind these actions. It’s usually fear of the different, the strange.

What’s the greatest commandment? Love God, love your neighbour. But love is the most over used, the most abused word in the English language. We flip around so easily that the word love has lost its meaning, its power.

The power of the words ‘love’ challenges our prejudges, our bigotry, our racism, even as we deny these realities in our lives.

Right here, right now we celebrate real and proven love as we make present to us the passion and death of Jesus, when Jesus handed over to us his body, his blood, his life and left us with these challenging words…love one another as I’ve loved you.

We all know there is a great difference between loving a person and liking a person. There are some people we will never like. We have personality clash with them, they turn us off. But we are challenged to love them; to wish them well and pray for their well being. That’s how we love as Jesus loved us.