One Monk of the Order of Saint Benedict

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The Word of God and the Body of God reveal each other -- the homily worships both.

November 05, 2006

For the Thirty-First Ordinary Sunday of the Church Year

Mark 12:28-34

Today in the Gospel, we hear an expert in Jewish religious laws ask the Lord a simple question.
Which is the first of all the commandments?

There were several hundred obligatory Jewish commandments.
These were generally divided up between the greater commandments and the lesser commandments.
Just about anyone could have answered the expert that the first commandment is to love the Lord God with your whole being.
In comparison with that particular commandment, all the rest are relatively lesser commandments.
However, rather than leave the lawyer and us to understand that all the rest of the commandments are merely secondary, the Lord adds two other details.
First he says there is a second commandment ranking immediately after the first.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

Finally he says there is no commandment greater than those two.
The Gospel tells us that the lawyer today expressed admiration for the Lord’s answers, and exclaimed that to obey those two commands is worth much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.
Noting the lawyer’s understanding, the Lord tells him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God”.
Love of God and love of neighbor are above any merely external worship of God.
Less than fifty years after our Lord offered his self-sacrifice on the cross, Judaism chose to stop its ancient practice of ritual sacrifices and burnt offerings because the Romans destroyed the great Temple of Jerusalem.
From the standpoint of our faith in Christ, this end of Jewish liturgical sacrifice is a tragedy, but a tragedy that took place after the obedient self-sacrifice of Christ in whom all sacrifices and all commandments have their fulfillment.
Christ fulfilled the commands to love God and neighbor by offering himself up in his own sacrificial and redemptive death on the cross.
His sacrificial death for the glory of the Father and the ransom of the world continues to be present and real in his Eucharist.
In his death on the cross and in his Eucharist, Christ’s undying love and his sacrificial worship are one and the same thing.
With this extreme of loving self-sacrifice, Jesus’ love for the Father goes unimaginably far beyond all the cost and strength of the animal sacrifices and burnt offerings that God asked of ancient Israel.
In the Eucharist, Christ himself in his sacrificial death is present— a sacrificial death in which he gave loving worship to the Father and by which he brought loving salvation to us.
In the Eucharist, we have the absolute beginning, foundation and fulfillment of love for God and neighbor.
Between the beginning of love and the fulfilling of love, there are many steps and details to work out in our daily living.
But we can never do better than to begin and to end here with the Eucharist.
The Eucharist is both the deepest fountain and the highest mountain of love and worship.
God is offered up for us here in the flesh and blood of Christ; and our own humanity is perfectly available for God in the flesh and blood of Christ.
The Eucharist of Christ is absolute love and absolute worship.

That God Be Glorified in All


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