Weekly Homilies

God Alone is God (Mark 12: 28b-34)

October 31, 2021 Fr. Mark Suslenko Season 4 Episode 36
Weekly Homilies
God Alone is God (Mark 12: 28b-34)

Hi everyone, and welcome to Weekly Homilies with Father Mark Suslenko, Pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. We are part of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford. I'm Carol Vassar, parish director of communications, and you're listening to Season 4, Episode 36 for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time:  October 24, 2021.  Our Gospel reading is from Mark, Chapter 12:28b-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" 

Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,  with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these." 

The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.’ And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." 

And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

The Gospel of the Lord

“God Alone is God,” by Father Mark S. Suslenko, Pastor, SS. Isidore and Maria Parish, Glastonbury, Connecticut

Hear O Israel: the Lord is our God; the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. Hear O Israel.

That affirmation is at the beginning of any Jewish ritual prayer. By a devout Jew, it's recited at least twice a day, usually with one's hand covering their eyes. 

The affirmation provides focus, gives direction, and reminds those who recite it of who God is. It's so easy in our human lives to lose touch with who God is. Jesus sees this affirmation as so critically important himself that he takes it word for word when he details his commandments. And He says, "Hear, O, Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself." he adds to that affirmation because the dots are connected in the Gospel. God, ourselves and others: it's a package deal. 

So we live in a world that offers us so many possibilities. So much is at our fingertips in a moment's notice. So much distracts us; so much lures us; that we can find ourselves living very distracted, disordered lives and not even realizing we're doing so. We think we're worshiping the one true God, but yet our hearts are elsewhere. 

As human beings, we need to be reminded again and again, often, and even, more of who we are, of who God is and what is ultimately important. 

You know, as he charts the direction of our lives, we can make choices that really just serve ourselves; to become preoccupied with our own sense of wellbeing, our own little worlds. What suits us? 

I want what I want when I want it. I walk through the world as if I am entitled to things. My agenda is more important than yours. If you're in my way, you need to get out of my way. Don't confront me. Don't challenge me. My needs and my desires are what are paramount. 

And so, as we live in this very distracted world, we can find ourselves worshiping these other gods. Gods who really serve ourselves. Gods that we create ourselves. And they're usually in service of our livelihood or our wellbeing or our success, or our comfort level.

We can find ourselves in this distracted world, even getting a bit lazy and falling into apathy. Investing into things that are actually hurtful. We have an intranet that's so easily distracts us. How much time we spend wasting on our computers, just aimlessly wandering about, looking about at stuff that is not important at all, or worse yet stuff that is blatantly immoral. Stuff that can hurt us. Stuff that is self-destructive. 

We live in a world that wants to convince us of lies. And so it's very easy to find ourselves was led down these paths that have nothing to do with the God of Israel, nothing to do with the essence of our being. Even though out of our lips come the right words. We know how to say the right prayers, but our hearts, our hearts are not on focus or on point. 

Our acknowledgement of God is God doesn't have the full conviction of our strength because we only have so much psychological energy, and if we're giving it out to all of these other things, then we don't have much left over to give to God. 

And so how do I know if I'm worshiping the true God of Israel? 

Well,  you can take stock and it takes a lot of honest reflection to put these pieces together, of what pronouns we find ourselves using more; what pronouns? You see, if I go through life using I and me, and see the world through that lens, that it's really all about myself, I and me, versus us and we, then we haven't quite gotten to the point of Jesus' commandment. We haven't figured out what love thy neighbor and thyself are all about.

If we find ourselves falling victim to anxiety, to fear; if we find ourselves becoming bitter, angry, unhappy; if we find ourselves lacking joy; we find ourselves spiritually tired without a desire to connect with God. If we find ourselves off center we find ourselves without hope; if we find ourselves lacking love, then maybe it's because we're worshiping the wrong god. Trying to use ,something lesser to fill this need within us, rather than the God of Israel: the one true Lord who is Lord alone. The one whom I must worship with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength.

We look at the world's problems, and there's so many of them, you know, words like violence, entitlement, greed, war, exploitation of human beings, poverty, suffering, people who don't feel safe in their homeland, forced to flee without anything, to find someplace safe; to look at all of that stuff. I'd venture to say at the base of a lot of it are people in power who are using the pronouns "I and me" rather than "us and we."

 Do you see how that simple change of a pronoun makes a huge difference in terms of how we view life and how we respond? That's the Gospel. You see, the Gospel is not about "I and me" and "my lovely little road to salvation." The Gospel is "us and we," and how, as a package deal, God, my brothers and sisters, myself negotiate this God-given beautiful world that we've been entrusted with on a journey to a greater, more eternal relationship.

You know, we have at the basis of our own Catholic faith, something that's very similar to what is found in Judaism, but yet we sometimes forget about it and don't use the power of this resource because it's a resource that can change lives and does change lives. And it's something very simple: morning and evening prayer, morning and evening prayer.

You know, if we took our lives as they unfold, with all of its distractions, with all of its more, wherever we find ourselves to be, and however life unfolds in a given week, in a given day. When we put our feet on the floor in the morning, before we do anything else,"Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God; the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind ,and with all your strength and your neighbor as yourself." And then follow that affirmation with your prayer for that day. And then when you go to bed at night, before you lay yourself down, to repeat that once again, as your final thought before sleep.

You will find that as you go about the business of your life, you will be less tempted by these lesser gods. You will be more focused on the God of Israel, the one true God. Your relationships with one another are going to change. Your relationship with God is going to change. You are going to use "I and me" less and "us and we" more, and find yourself stumbling into joy, happiness, a sense of wellbeing because you will be detached from all of those things that can cripple us. All of those things that can bring us to a place of darkness .

Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength, AND your neighbor as yourself.

Father Mark Suslenko  is the pastor of SS. Isidore and Maria Parish in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Learn more about our parish community www.isidoreandmaria.org. And follow us on social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Our music comes free of charge from Blue Dot Sessions in Fall River, Massachusetts. I’m Carol Vassar. Thanks for joining us.