Deuteronomy, one of the first five books of the Old Testament ascribed to Moses, has a record of Moses’ teachings to the emerging nation of Israel on their way to the Promised Land. They had experienced slavery in Egypt and had witnessed God’s mighty redemption when He effected their release from servitude, guided and protected them as they journeyed towards Canaan, and brought them safely close to their promised destination. Moses was getting them ready to enter the land of promise by reminding them of Yahweh’s earned right to their obedience, unfl inching loyalty and faithful love. Moses enjoined Israel to uphold monotheism not only by fearing, loving and obeying God, but by also ensuring that their faith in Him was passed, in all its purity, to their children. The “Shema” (Hear o Israel…..), which every faithful Jew is required to recite a couple of times a day, reminds us not only of our calling to live as God’s chosen people, but also bestows on us the responsibility of passing on this gift of faith to succeeding generations. Our faithfulness to Divine precepts is complete only if we instill the same faithfulness to God in our children.
The “Shema” appears again in the Gospel today as the first part of the answer that Jesus offered the curious scribe who requested the Divine Redeemer’s expert opinion on the issue of prioritizing the commandments. Jesus volunteered two commandments: love of God and love of neighbor. As far as Jesus was concerned, one cannot practice love of God without loving the creature He loves most: humanity, created in His own image and likeness and animated with His Spirit. We can only make visible, and thus practicable, our love of God who remains unseen by our love for our seen neighbor. Elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Jesus makes the love of neighbor a necessary prerequisite for discipleship when he declared, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34-35). Therefore, it is morally inadmissible to profess fervent love for God, and in fact discipleship of Jesus Christ, when we neglect, maltreat and act outrightly mean to fellow human beings. There is an inseparable link between love of God and love of neighbors.
We pray that we may be granted grace not only to love God, but also to dutifully pass onto the next generation what we believe and practice. We also pray that through our charity towards others in our thoughts, words and actions, we may make real and visible to the world our love of God who has already loved us beyond measure.
Please be kind and may God bless you.
Fr. ManassehBACK TO LIST