Sunday Scripture readings, Oct. 31, 2021: Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
1) Dt 6:2-6 Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51
2) Heb 7:23-28 Gospel: Mk 12:28-34
Listen to God’s voice in the world and respond
In the movie “CODA,” Ruby Rossi is the only hearing member of her family. Her parents and her brother are deaf. As the family’s fishing business struggles to survive, Ruby helps her parents and brother to communicate with the community.
After high school, Ruby planned to join the family business. But when she auditioned for her school choir, her music teacher, Mr. V, recognized her beautiful voice and encouraged her to pursue her singing talent by applying to Berklee College of Music.
Ruby’s deaf family attends her recitals with her high school choir and her college audition. Even though they cannot hear her singing, they enjoy the audience’s positive reaction and see Ruby’s passion for singing.
Their inability to listen to their daughter’s beautiful voice did not prevent them from recognizing and accepting that she would eventually leave the family to pursue her talent and love of music.
Effective communication involves listening and speaking, hearing and responding in written or spoken words. From the moment we wake to the time we rest at the day’s end, we listen and respond to sounds, words, news and communications that make up our daily existence. The same holds true for our relationship with God.
“Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” These words of Moses to the people of Israel form the heart of Jewish prayer, also known as the Shema Israel.
To address God with these words is the most important part of Jewish daily prayer and is taught to children from a young age.
Moses’ words embody the monotheistic faith of Judaism and express the covenant relationship of love of God that engages heart, mind, soul and body. And the first word of this prayer, “hear,” reminds us of the importance of listening to God in the midst of the daily communication of sounds and voices we hear and respond to in our daily lives.
In the Gospel, Jesus speaks with a teacher of the law, who asks a fundamental question, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus responds by recalling Moses’ words that sum up the double commandment to love God and neighbor. This is the heart of discipleship. Then Jesus praises the scribe for understanding that the essence of faith is love.
The author of Hebrews tells us that Jesus, the high priest, forever intercedes for the world. Jesus, the son of God, has no need to offer sacrifices day after day because he offered himself once for all on the cross to reconcile us to friendship with God forever.
As we hear the daily voices of the world around us, God’s word invites us to pause and to listen to God’s voice in his holy word, in the Eucharist and in our neighbor. The first act of faith is to listen to God who speaks a word of love and mercy into our lives. Today may we renew our desire to listen attentively to God as we pray with confident faith, “speak to me, Lord.”
How can you grow in listening attentively to the words of Jesus?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.