Homily for November 4, 2012

31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Hebrews 7:23-26
Mark 12:28b-34
November 4, 2012

Moses calls for the people to “keep all God’s statutes and commandments.” It is something we all desire in some way. After all, Moses says that if the people keep God’s commandments, the people will grow and prosper.

The commandments are good. Some of them are good in their right. Who can argue against commandments like, thou shall not steal, or bear false witness, or don’t kill. Clearly, it is good for all of us and for society as a whole if we keep these commandments.

All the commandments are good because they come from God. As people of faith, we desire to follow the commandments.
Knowing they are good, we should be highly motivated to follow them. It would seem that given all this, it should be easy to follow the commandments.

But it isn’t.

One of the scribes asks Jesus the question “Which is the first of all the commandments?” It’s actually a somewhat common question of Jesus’ time. For us, we think of Ten Commandments. The Jews spoke in terms of 613, of which the Ten were the most important.
Where to begin?

One isn’t likely to just start following all the Commandments all at once. We need a starting point. Jesus was human and knew this. So, he answered the scribe’s question.

Actually, Jesus goes beyond what the scribe asks for. Jesus offers Two. And the two he offers are not explicitly listed as part of the Ten Commandments.

Jesus says it is all about love, loving God and loving our neighbor. We are created to love but it is no small matter to answer the call to love.
It is not just a simple love but a call to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul. We are to put every fiber of our being into loving God.
It should seem easy to love God but it isn’t. Love means making sacrifices. Love means putting God’s Will before our own desires.
This has been a struggle from the first days of the Old Covenant. People failed to follow God’s Will. It’s called sin!
And for their sins, the people needed forgiveness. That’s why God prescribed the sacrifices of the Old Testament. Those sacrifices were offered by human priests who were themselves imperfect and needed also to make sacrifices for their own sins in addition to the sins of the people.These sacrifices were not perfect and had to be offered over and over again.

But Jesus comes to offer a new and perfect sacrifice. Jesus is the only one who is holy, innocent, and undefiled. He makes one sacrifice once and for all.   The sacrifice that Jesus offers is the giving of his own life on the Cross. Jesus is perfect and so his sacrifice is perfect but we need to always remember not just the action of his sacrifice but the reason for his sacrifice – because he loved us.

It is love that God wants from us. It is love that pleases God more than any earthly sacrifice.

Every time we celebrate Mass we are offering a sacrifice but it is not a new sacrifice. Each time the priests in the Old Testament offer a sacrifice for forgiveness it was a new but imperfect sacrifice.

The sacrifice we celebrate at Mass is not new. Nor is it just a remembering of Jesus’ death.  It is the same sacrifice that Jesus made on the Cross for us. God is bigger than anything we can imagine. God transcends time. Somehow in his grace, God makes present for us the same sacrifice, offered once and for all at Calvary.

As we celebrate the sacrifice of the Mass, we call to mind that Jesus who said over the bread, This is my body gave up his body for us. We call to mind how Jesus who said “This is the cup of my blood” shed his blood for us. His giving of his blood is the very giving of his life for us. Then, we receive the Body and Blood as a sign of our desire to know God and to be strengthened by all that he offers us.
It is no small sacrifice that we celebrate today.


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