31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
In this country we are sometimes cautioned,
“Don’t wear your religion on your sleeve.”
We struggle with public expressions of faith.
That would have made no sense to people in ancient Israel.
Indeed, the Shema, Israel,
which we hear today from Moses in the Book of Deuteronomy
and again from Jesus in the Gospel of Mark,
is an invitation to make the love of God part of our entire being.
In order to understand that, we need to read a few verses
immediately after Moses’ injunction in our first reading.
Not only should God’s people take to heart the words of the Shema,
but they are told to: repeat them to their children;
recite them throughout the day, wherever they are;
bind them to their arms and foreheads;
and write them on their doorposts and gates.
In Jesus’ day and even now
especially devout Jews literally bind the words of the Shema
to their arms and foreheads in small boxes called phylacteries.
It may seem odd to do something like that.
Yet we have no problem binding to our bodies
the names of our favorite sports teams
(Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs, Sox)
(“Pink” from Victoria’s Secret, Louis Vuitton, Nike, Adidas)!
People have no problem getting tattoos of various names and images.
We may not need phylacteries,
but we all at times need reminders of the call
to love God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength
and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
It may seem silly to think that we need to be reminded to love
until we consider all of the sin in the world and in our own lives.
We need God’s love to be in our world as much as ever:
in Yemen, where millions of people face war and starvation;
in Pittsburgh, where eleven people were killed last Saturday
in an anti-Semitic act of terrorism in a synagogue;
in Mexico, where a caravan of men, women and children
fleeing violence and poverty in Honduras and El Salvador
are walking 30 or 40 miles a day
in the hope that they can apply for asylum here;
and sometimes in our own families and communities,
suffering from domestic violence, addictions,
gossip or old resentments.
The Pocket Gospels with the Acts of the Apostles
that we’ve been distributing here at St. Clare
are one way that we can keep the call
to love God and our neighbor with us at all times.
Earlier this year, Pope Francis asked every Catholic in the world
to spend just two minutes each day
reading and reflecting on the gospels
to recall the presence of the God who is love;
to build communion
in our families, our church and our world;
and to remember the mission that Jesus gave to us
to proclaim his gospel in word and action.
This Tuesday we have very important elections
for the future of Illinois and the United States.
Voting is more than a civic duty.
When informed by our faith and values,
it can be an expression of our love for God and our neighbor.
If you are eligible to vote,
pray for wisdom and go to the polls.
Remember the common good as well as your own interests.
Don’t be afraid
to wear your love for God and your neighbor on your sleeve. +