The Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
October 31, 2021 Cycle B
Fr. José Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.B.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Washington, D.C.
Sunday Reading Meditations
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart” (Dut 6:6).
Today’s Gospel recounts that one of the scribes asked Jesus which of the Ten Commandments was the most important. Jesus responds with a prayer Moses taught Israel, the Shema Yisrael: “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” (Dut 6:4–5).
This prayer affirms the oneness of God and commands us to adore him with all our hearts. Adoration is to accept God’s uniqueness and surrender to his infinite majesty. The first reading says: “Fear the LORD, your God” (Dut 6:2), which means to revere him with awe. As the Letter to the Hebrews says, “we who are receiving the unshakable kingdom should have gratitude, with which we should offer worship pleasing to God in reverence and awe. For our God is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:28–29).
The Israelites wandering in the desert succumbed to the temptation of idol worship. Instead of choosing the Lord, the Creator and Savior, they chose a golden calf made by their own hands. Idolatry absolutizes the relative. To love God with all our hearts is to renounce the absolutization of people, things and circumstances.
For example, idolatry can occur when we absolutize a problem and tend to see it as everything. We may lose hope or feel desperate but always need to remember that any problem in life is relative—only God is absolute. God is greater than our troubles.
The storm is only on the surface of the ocean. Even when the waves are very turbulent, if we dive into the water, we shall soon leave turmoil behind and enter a realm of peace. Saint John Henry Newman said that saints live in the tempest but their hearts are anchored in the quietude of deep waters.
We need to heed Jesus’ words: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves” (Mt 11:28–29). If we come to Christ, we will find rest and we will find life in abundance.
Jesus Christ is the only man to love God with all his heart, all his soul and all his strength. We fall short in loving God as he deserves. Nevertheless, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews says: “Jesus is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).
We can only love God with all our hearts if we love him through Jesus’ heart, as Saint Paul experienced: “[…] yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20). The spear opened Christ’s side to allow us to partake in the life gushing from it. A spiritual author wrote: “Desire unceasingly to behold your Savior face to face. Confide to Him your troubles. Draw His Heart into yours, with Its spirit and Its love, Its graces and Its virtues. Abandon yourself lovingly to It in sorrow and in joy […] Sleep and take your rest in the Heart of Jesus.
Those who follow Christ can love God with all their hearts, as Our Lady did in a perfect way. Mary is the paragon of a faithful disciple. She follows her son wholeheartedly and loves God with all her Immaculate Heart. Her heart grants us access to Jesus’ heart, which is why devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary is so important.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart.”
May Mary’s intercession and example help us love and adore God with all our hearts. Amen.