Fr. Charles Irvin
31st Sun [B] 2012
Deuteronomy 6:2-6; Hebrews 7:23-28; Mark 12:28-34
HEAR O ISRAEL, THE LORD IS OUR GOD, THE LORD ALONE!
This cry struck a deep chord in the sons and daughters of Israel… and still does today. It harkens back to the time when Moses, after having by the power of God alone, led the Israelites out of their bondage in Egypt and gave them The Law with its Ten Commandments. They were about to enter the Promised Land and Moses was concerned that they remain faithful to the God who had saved them and would continue to protect them. In his discourse to the Israelites Moses instructed them with these words found in the Book of Deuteronomy:
This then is the commandment, the statues and the ordinances, which the Lord, your God, has commanded that you be taught to observe in the land you are about to cross into and posses, so that you, that is you, your child, and your grandchild, may fear the Lord, your God, by keeping, as long as you live, all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. Hear the, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly, for the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you a land flowing with milk and honey. HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD IS OUR GOD, THE LORD ALONE! Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength. Take to heart these words which I command you today. Keep repeating them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you are down and when you get up.
Throughout their long and turbulent history this cry always forced the Jewish people back to a consciousness of their origins and their national purpose. This was the cry of Moses when God first formed the Israelites into a nation. It is the First Commandment… the re-forming commandment when every future restoration of Judaism was needed.
There came a time when ideas and concepts about God and about who He is were attempted to be concretized. All such attempts, both long ago, and even now, fail. They fail because God is free to be who He is in His mystery and cannot be restricted by our human and limited conceptualizations.
For instance, there came a time when the Jewish people saw God as exclusively identified with the Promised Land, with the land flowing with milk and honey. Only those living there were God’s beloved. This led to religious elitism, the elitism of the Chosen. They saw God as having noting to do with the Gentiles.
There came a time when God was identified by the Jews exclusively with their Temple in Jerusalem. God worked exclusively, they thought, through the Temple’s priests. Eventually they expanded that concept and saw God’s kingdom as present only through Jewish kings.
HEAR O ISRAEL, THE LORD IS OUR GOD, THE LORD ALONE was the constant cry of the ancient Jewish prophets, those men who called Israel back from its wayward ways to its original purpose, while recognizing that God cannot be limited by human concepts and images. He is limitless and human concepts cannot confine Him.
We are Gentiles, descendants of those who, along with the Jews, shaped the culture of Western Civilization. Our Western history is filled with accounts of kings and queens who claimed they ruled by divine right. The British monarchy’s history is one steeped in that notion, a notion so powerful and pervasive that the system of English Common Law was developed to protect the little people from the whims and tyrannies of British kings and queens who acted as if they had God’s prerogatives. That’s why our own Declaration of Independence grounds our dignity on rights that are endowed upon us by our Creator, rights that inhere in our nature that were put there by God, not by any king, president, congress, or court.
People allow themselves to be ruled by mean and venial men when people lose sight of the godliness within themselves. When they lose that vision the result is that their national purpose, and the high ideals that formed them, become deformed. We too, especially today, need to hear and understand that ancient cry: HEAR O ISRAEL, THE LORD IS OUR GOD, THE LORD ALONE.
Accepting the Lordship of God means accepting His order of reality, His concern for His people, and the destiny He has placed before us. God lives in His creation and above all lives in His creatures whom He made in His own image and likeness. Accepting the Lordship of God necessarily entails love of neighbor. It means loving them as God loves them, caring for them as God cares for them. As Christians we share ourselves in the Eucharist because in the Eucharist we share the God who made us… the Body and Blood of God the Son in our humanity that has been filled with God’s divinity.
In the culture that surrounds us there is much disorder… a tremendous confusion in the ordering of our human values. As a people we are quite removed from God’s order of reality. There is a loss in national purpose. We have no common destiny. The values upon which this society was constituted are values that have slipped between our fingers. And the Lordship of our God? Many would ask: “God? Who’s He? Does God matter?”
We have substituted our dominion for God’s dominion, our order for His order. Our dollar bill is the symbol of power in our lives, the instrument of dominion over us. Yet our dollar bill is legitimated in our eyes because we have put God’s name on it and put His all-seeing eye in the peak of its pyramid. It is any wonder, then, that we are confused? What we profess we do not really believe.
Jesus tells us that we are not far from God’s kingdom. On Mt. Sinai the Lord gave Moses the Ten Commandments. Standing on the Mount of Beatitudes Jesus gave His new Commandments, the Beatitudes.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, He tells us, they shall have freedom and shall not be shackled like those who are possessed by their possessions.
Blessed are those who mourn, they shall comforted and not be riddled by the guilt of those who cannot mourn for anyone’s loss other than their own.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, they shall be satisfied and not suffer the insecurities of those who worship power and control over others.
Blessed are the merciful, they shall receive mercy. They can afford to admit their faults and not be beset by the insecurities of those who are afraid to admit their mistakes, faults, and failures.
Blessed are the pure in heart. They shall see God and the presence of God in others and not be held in the fear-full grip of seeing those around them only as evildoers.
Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called sons and daughters of God because, like God’s only begotten Son, they are willing to suffer and even die so that we can all live under God in peace.
Blessed are you when you are persecuted for righteousness sake, for yours is the kingdom of heaven. You have far more freedom within you than those who persecute you in the name of freedom.
Blessed are you when men and women revile you and utter all kinds of evil against you because you hold to God’s values. You, and the prophets who lived before you, speak what we need to hear: HEAR O ISRAEL, THE LORD IS OUR GOD, THE LORD ALONE!
Do not despair in the face of evil. In the past and even now there are times when those around us would twist and deform what God wants to do in our world. But we know through the prophets that all that has been de-formed can be re-formed. Despair and retreat into one’s own little world is the surest path to hell. Remember that despair is Satan’s greatest victory. Despair is Satan’s ultimate quality. Despair is the hell in which Satan forever lives. Accepting, on the other hand, God’s lordship over us means accepting and living out His order and values in our world. We must never sell out and never give up. Reformation is possibly only and unless we believe that it can happen because God is at work in our lives.
HEAR O ISRAEL, THE LORD IS OUR GOD, THE LORD ALONE!