Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

How are we to love God? 

Today's First Reading and Gospel both answer this extremely important question. 

The First Reading, Deuteronomy 6:2-6, is part of Moses' last will and testament, the final instructions he gives to the Israelites. Above all, he emphasizes the love of God: 

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! 
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
(Deuteronomy 6:4-5) 

Let's look at some key words from the Hebrew text to understand more of what this verse means.

The word for “heart” in Hebrew is lêbâb. It refers to a person's innermost part, the seat of one's knowledge, reflection, appetites, passions, emotions, and courage. 

The word for “soul” in Hebrew is nephesh. It, too, describes a person's deepest self, especially one's living spiritual element and innermost being. 

The word for “strength” in Hebrew is me'ôd. It means diligence, vehemence, wholeness, might, force, and abundance. 

A person's love for God, then, must be a powerful love, a focused love that encompasses one's whole self, right down to one's very depths. 

In today's Gospel, Mark 12:28-34, a scribe approaches Jesus and asks Him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” 

Jesus easily replies: 

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.
(Mark 12:29-31) 

Looks familiar, doesn't it? Jesus is very nearly quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, nearly but not quite. He adds one more way to love God...“with all your mind.” Let's take a look at some key Greek words to help us understand Jesus' meaning. 

The Greek word for “heart” is kardia. It refers to “the seat and centre of man's personal life in which the distinctive character of the human manifests itself” (Great Treasures). 

The Greek word for “soul” is psuchē, which describes “the breath or life which exists in every living thing, hence, a living individual, life in distinct individual existence, and the whole man himself” (Great Treasures). 

The Greek word for “mind” is dianoia. It refers to the conscious, thinking, meditating, reflecting, reasoning, and imagining parts of the human being, with special emphasis on morality. 

The Greek word for “strength” is ischus. It means might, power, force, and vigor. 

Again, Jesus is describing a powerful love, a love that encompasses a person's entire being, right down to the very center of life and extending up to one's intellect, emotions, imagination, and moral choices. 

Set aside some time this week to reflect on your love for God. How do you love God? Do you give your entire self to Him? Do you place your whole being at His service, all you are, all you have, all you think, all you feel, all you choose, all you imagine? Is your love for God a powerful, vigorous, overflowing love? How might you increase your love for the One Who loves you with a love stronger and deeper than you could ever imagine? 

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