What Are the Guiding Principles of My Life?
31st Sunday Ordinary Time
October 31, 2021
“Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God
with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your heart, with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
What are the guiding principles of my life? Christ makes it clear that if we put what is important to God first, God will guide everything else and we will be prepared for eternal life. If my life is not pleasing to God, on the other hand, I will be like a shopping cart with a bent wheel—that wants to go its own way, or a pen that skips and doesn’t write as it was meant to.
The Jews call the first part of this passage the great shema, which is Hebrew for hear. To this day pious Jews can sometimes be seen placing this text over a doorframe of their house (a mezuzah) or wearing it on their wrists or foreheads in little boxes (phylacteries). How differently we might live if we were to read this scripture when first opening our cell phone or when leaving the house! And what a great way to end the day: a brief review of how I loved God and how I loved my neighbor.
Saint Teresa of Calcutta once pointed out that it is much easier for us to love our neighbor who is far away than the one who is close by. It is wonderful to donate to charities that help the poor or distressed that we will never meet, but what about my “neighbors” around me? This can be a bit more problematic at times.
Prayer and Mass attendance are essential in the life of an active Catholic, but the only way we can know for sure that we love God is when we come out of church or prayer and are driving home. Our “neighbors” are the mix of people in our lives and through whom God works, often without our being aware of it: work, family, extended relatives, friends, people at church, acquaintances, and people we meet by chance each day (especially the problematic ones). When you think about it, these people and the interactions we have with them are the primary vehicles by which we will demonstrate our love for God in this world. In fact, our entire future in heaven depends precisely on how we treat others. We have heard once again what is most important to God, but will we remember?