31 October 2021 – 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B)

By Fr Francis Anthony

Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Psalm 17:2-4, 47, 51
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 12:28-34

Theme:  Love, the Greatest Commandment

Just now for the introduction, the stress was made: What is important is how we love God and we love one another.  And the Gospel comes in very strongly when it says:
The strength to love your neighbour as yourself is far more important than holocaust or sacrifices.”

When you are offering your sacrifices, your prayers, we are trying to link with God, the God of love.  And that God of love is linking himself with us, with love.  And it doesn’t stop there, he wants us to be a channel of that love to others. The loving of neighbour is the extension of God’s love in me to others.  If I do not put that extension and to say “I love God”, we have to think twice.

The first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, yes it is the fifth book of the Bible, but it was written quite late in the Jewish history.  It was written during the time while the Jewish people were in exile and they were asking questions.  “Why is it?  We are the descendant of Abraham.  We have been promised the land flowing with milk and honey.  We had the temple.  Why is it now we have lost everything and lost our land, our temple, and we are now in exile?

That was the situation the author here is trying to bring out: Yes, what was happening was in the heydays of your beautiful life in the land flowing with milk and honey, you forgot God.  You forgot love.  Your neighbour was no one to you.  The value of a person was just a pair of sandals.  You were bullying the poorer classes and you exercise your power without any consideration for the rest.  

So it is in this context if you read, and it is put in a conditional clause:
“If you fear the Lord, your God, all the days of your life,  
If you keep His commandments,
Listen Israel!”

(that means to say you are not fearing and if you are saying “Yes I am one with the Lord”, then listen!)

In this short passage, the word comes in twice, “Listen Israel!”.  And this is very important for us these days as we are preparing for the Synodal Assembly in the year 2023 in Rome and spadework is being already begun.  “LISTEN!”.  

In the picture that we had to grasp, we’ll see 2 men walking with Jesus.  And there is the encounter, the meeting of Jesus on that road.  They were going away from Jerusalem, they were disgusted, they were hoping big things could happen and this man whom they followed, he has already died.  Yes, they say he is risen but they were not convinced.  It reflects many of us, myself included.  At times during this period of Covid-19, with all the restrictions, we would have lost a certain amount of trust in God.  It is only when we encounter that Jesus, then we would “LISTEN”.  

The listening is so important today.  The listening is not to just to Jesus.  Listening being aware with the things happening around and trying to understand and to cope with that situation.  Yes, that is our role, to understand and to cope with that situation.  So listening is not just “I listen, I know.”  Listening is trying to see how I can improve, how I can make it effective, and that will lead to the other big word “DISCERNMENT”.  Yes, I encounter and in the encountering, I am listening and after that I am discerning and coming out with my answers, my way of life.  

And let us have strength in the responsorial psalm:
I love you Lord……the Lord is my strength, my rock, my fortress, my saviour.

Yes, the closeness to God, this God, when all this chaotic situation of Covid-19, even to go to Mass I have to register, but let me have this strong conviction: God is my strength, my rock, my fortress, my saviour.  He is the one who is reaching out to me.  He is that priest (according to the second reading) who has offered the sacrifice through which all of us have been saved.  

So let us not get discouraged.  We may not be up to that target.  Doesn’t matter.  Let us journey with God.  Let us ask Him to help us.  

He is my rock, my fortress, my saviour.

Click below to listen to homily:-

Click to live-stream Mass on 31 October 2021