31st Sunday Ordinary Time
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: October 31, 2021
“Which commandment is the first of all?” Why did the man in this Gospel ask Jesus this question? For a good Jewish man, the answer would have seemed pretty straightforward. In our first reading today from the Book of Deuteronomy, we hear the words found in the Jewish Shema prayer. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” It is considered by many Jewish people as the most important and most beautiful prayers. Rooted in the First Commandment that there is only one God, that nothing else is over God.
So, why did this man ask Jesus the question, what is the first commandment of all? We get a hint when we are told that as this Scribe came near to hear Jesus and the others in discussion, he heard the religious authorities disputing with one another. Perhaps they were disputing with one another about which law was most important, about who is pure, about who is acceptable to God. Probably they were arguing in great self importance and arrogance. Perhaps self-righteous and very sure that they knew all the answers. Probably they were getting angry and upset with one another as they disputed these issues.
It seems the Scribe sensed that something was not right about their religious attitude, something wrong about their way of discussing their religion. So, he turns to Jesus. Jesus gets right to the core, the Shema Prayer, to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind. He does not make it complicated. Then he adds something crucial, to love your neighbour as yourself. These both go together.
A religion that claims to love God but does not love our fellow human beings, is not fulfilling this commandment. A religion that claims to love God but then treats our fellow human beings in a way that does not reflect their dignity, is not fulfilling this commandment. Getting all caught up in intricate details about laws, purity, and so on, just distracts from what is essential.
If this Scribe saw our religious disputes today what would he say? Would he be just as disturbed by the religious discussions taking place on social media. People arguing and disputing over fine religious matters. This includes some Catholic figures who are so full of anger, self-righteous, judgement. The one thing that is missing in these religious blogs and discussions and disputes is love.
There is a story that I tell often, there was a spiritual guide who kept warning his disciples about the danger of religion. One finally asked him why he kept warning them about the dangers of religion. He responded. “Because most people have just enough religion to hate and not enough religion to love” The Scribe sensed that those religious authorities had just enough religion to hate. But when we truly love God fully, then there is only room for love in our relations with our fellow human beings. Including in our religious discussions or disputes.
So, each of us as Catholics need to review our own religion. If someone was to watch how I live, how I treat others, how I speak, the decisions and priorities that I have, what would they see? Would they see someone who loves God with their whole heart and soul and mind? Will they see also someone who loves their neighbour as themselves?
Question: Why do some people dedicate their whole life to believe and teach about their religion?
Please watch video below for answer:
If you prefer to read, below is Fr. Paul’s Answer:
Short Answer – Why not? 😊
Let’s take a closer look at this question sent to us by one of our teens from the local high school and examine 3 points.
- Why would someone bother to dedicate their life to learn and teach religion?
When I first saw the question, it seemed to me that an underlying question was asking – is it really worth it to dedicate your life to religion? For example, let’s insert another profession or carer instead of into the question and see if it makes sense.
For example: Why would some people dedicate their life to becoming an NHL player? A pro soccer player? A doctor? A nurse? A carpenter? Why would someone dedicate their life to being a wife or a husband for their family? There’s a prevalent idea in our society that religion is made up or a waste of time or all relative – and it’s simply not the case. There are hundreds of thousands of people from all different backgrounds and characters who dedicate their life to religion. Why? Simple answer – it’s important to them.
The reality is that, if something is important to you, and you feel called to do it, and it makes you feel happy and completed, why wouldn’t you do it?
Everyone is made differently, and since, religion and God are the most important thing in life, it makes sense that for a portion of the Catholic population, they feel called to pursue a calling in religion as a priest, sister or brother.
2. Non importance or boring is relative
Non important or boring is kind of relative. For example, I’m passionate about hockey – a lot of my friends aren’t. Now, my friends that aren’t passionate about hockey still can appreciate a good hockey game even if its not their driving passion. They come with me to hockey games – it’s just not a career path they ever considered.
You can likewise be a good and faithful Christian and go to Mass and the sacraments even if you don’t want to be a priest or a nun. I feel its important to highlight this because many teens are naturally very idealistic and have an ‘all or nothing’ approach. You can be a devout Catholic without being a priest or a religious sister. It’s whether God calls you to serve Him and His people in a specific way or not.
3. Finally – how does it happen? Aka “The Call”
I can only speak for myself – but for myself and in fact, for many priests and sisters who I know, the journey of how they decided to be a priest or a sister wasn’t actually that mysterious and in a lot of ways, very ordinary.
I would compare it in a sense to having a crush on someone. It might start with a quick glance, then you want to get to know them more, hang out more. Over a while it might get more serious, and in many years end up in marriage.
It’s similar with a vocation (the word we use to describe a “profession” in the Catholic faith and means a calling in Latin) to be a priest or a sister – starts off small and grows over time.
In my case – I grew up playing a lot of hockey, ended up studying Mechanical Engineering, and slowly along the years going to university felt a slow and steady idea to check out becoming a priest. I did – and here I am.
Realize that there’s no ‘ideal candidate’ or ‘special type of person’ – God calls whoever He wants. And if you feel that God is asking you to serve Him as a priest or sister, don’t get all caught up in stereotypes about what a priest or a sister is supposed to be like or what they have to do – let God do the guiding – and as for you – just listen and follow.