October 31: Thirty-first Sunday of Ordinary Time. Readings: 1. Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Psalm: 18; 2. Hebrews 7:23-28; Gospel: Mark 12:28-34.
Evident in these Scripture texts is an emphasis on completeness and the fulfilment that comes of that.
The instructions given in the passage from Deuteronomy capture the essence of biblical faith, and the prayerfulness with which each believer should conduct daily life. In short, it is the latter few verses of today’s text that offer up the prayer (in Hebrew called the Shema) that all Israel are to recite at the beginning and end of each day. This call to full commitment is a reminder to us of our own needed participation in the faith on which our Christian vocation is built.
The author of the second reading from Hebrews emphasises the powerful central role that Jesus the High Priest plays in our faith. In a unique action, he gave his life for us all, and so saved us from our sins in a way that no other known high priest could do. As our heavenly, eternal high priest, Jesus is awaiting our full compliance while we make our way towards the eternal reward prepared for each one of us.
When Jesus responds to one of the scribes in Mark, we hear a direct and emphatic repetition of the Shema prayer that underpins all faith. But God is not alone in being honoured in this moment. For here Jesus adds in the command to love our neighbours as we would ourselves. In this Gospel text, then, we hear that love for God and neighbour go hand in hand. And in this way, we who are Christian know ourselves to be truly grounded in Israel’s faith.
These three readings are, therefore, cause for some profound reflection on the degree of commitment we give to the biblical commands spoken to us across the books that make up the Old and New Testaments.