"There is no other commandment greater than these."

After hearing about Bartimaeus’ faith last Sunday, our Lord now brings us to its important dimension: love, which is the root and the goal of faith. This is what He indicates in His reply to the question of the scribe in the Gospel reading on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012 from Mark 12:28-34: love is the “first of all the commandments.” Our Discussion Questions will guide your Sunday Bible Study with family, friends and church groups.

"With all your heart, soul, and strength"

A nice hotel in Jerusalem looks much like a nice hotel in just about any other city in the world but for one thing. At the entrance of each room there is a small metal cylinder called a mezuzah that protrudes from the doorjamb. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio says it contains a tiny scroll containing a verse from this Sunday’s First Reading: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. Therefore, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

This is the the beginning of the great Shemá ("Hear, o Israel", the prayer Jews recite three times a day. It contains the most basic tenets of Judaism: belief in one God and obedience to Him in love. Fr. Alex McAllister SDS reminds us that we Christians believe the same. There is nothing left out —no part of us exempt from loving God. This is an obligation that cannot be filled by merely coming to Mass on a Sunday or muttering a few prayers now and again.

God calls us to be one person, totally committed to Him in every aspect of our lives. We are to love him with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength. Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says that is integrity. Fr. John Foley, S. J. explains further God has always loved all people in the world, throughout the entire bible. But if you are close to God, this love must spill over to other people. So, of course, the question is, what is your life made of, and to whom does it spill over?

Christ Unites Love of God & of Neighbor

In the Old Testament, love for God and for neighbor were separate entities. Christ, however, unites them. And our Lord does this, Fr. Omer Prieto explains, using the word ‘love.’ He says the love active in Christians is not simply human love, but theological charity which has two subjects, the human and the divine. The Sacerdote Institute makes it clear. Christian love is not simply philanthropy or “being nice.” And it can be really easy to deceive ourselves. If we really want our love to be divine, we have to transcend the natural and contemplate our neighbor from the perspective of God’s love, thus loving him in relation to God and because of God.

And just how is this love of God fulfilled? In a very practical way, a way that is open to every man and woman. The "Way" of Christ is in the keeping of the commandments, Father Cusick explains.

The Realization of God's Plan

The marvel of Jesus' Gospel is that while it is admittedly difficult to put into action, its simplicity allows it to be understood even by a young child. Fr. James Gilhooley tells us that Exegesis is not required. Christ's Gospels remind us we can have a hundred pounds of dogma while not having an ounce of salvation.

With the disclaimer that the divine-human reality cannot fully be contained by human concepts, Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, OSB explains that the kingdom of God seems to include three principal aspects: (1) God's plan and saving presence in history, not as a tyrant, but to invite all of us to loving communion in divine life; (2) the human acceptance of the divine gift through conversion in childlike faith and gratitude; and (3) the realm of life with God in and through the Church, fully to be realized only at the end-time.

So is it possible for us to respond by loving God with all our heart, all our soul, all our mind, all our strength, and to love our neighbors as ourselves? It is possible only if we remember through the gift of faith that God in every moment of our life loves us with a total, personal love. Then why be good if God loves us no matter what? What difference does our response make? Our response makes a big difference, Fr. Ron Rolheiser tells us. But not in terms of giving God offense, driving God away, or making God punish or reward us. It makes a difference in how we stand and feel in the face of love. We cannot offend against God, but we can offend against others and ourselves.

All Saints Day, All Souls Day

The Church celebrated All Saints Day yesterday, November 1. And in Proposition 23 of the recent Synod of Bishops, the Synod Fathers asserts a message that is in perfect harmony with the feast -- that the Saints are "effective models" for the New Evangelization. "Holiness is a significant part of every evangelizing commitment for the one who evangelizes and for the good of those evangelized," it states. Marcellino D’Ambrosio, Ph.D. adds his own reflections. He says Holiness is not about what you do but with how much love you do it. So that means spending all our time in chapel? No, he says it means doing daily, ordinary things with extraordinary love.

During the Synod, Pope Benedict led the Church as it welcomed seven new saints into our midst. It was an event witnessed by the over over 80,000 people in attendance. And just how can we be sure that these new saints are truly in heaven? Fr. Tim Finigan says it is a theologically certain doctrine that the canonization of a saint is an infallible act of the Church's magisterium. And he sets down some of the useful arguments that have been used by theologians over the ages.

The Year of Faith

On October 11, our Church began the Year of Faith. And there is this one overriding objective desired by Benedict XVI -- to bring men back to the one true God and to depose from their thrones the false divinities that dominate the world. Sandro Magister points out that the pontiff, during his Wednesday weekly public audiences, has set out to explain the "Credo"  article by article.

And here's one way of bringing Faith Formation to the parish level. Fr. James Mallon, founder and director of the John Paul II Media Institute, makes his point that the New Evangelization should be founded on a spirit of mission, not only in the formation of those within the Church, but those who have yet to discover the person of Jesus Christ. Jennifer Fulwiler shares another instance of how her parish drew people to God - through beauty. This past weekend she had the pleasure of attending a performance of Mozart's Requiem at her church in Texas. The event featured an orchestra, a choir of more than 50 people and four internationally-known soloists. Also, it was not for Catholics only: It was specifically noted in the advertisements that all were welcome to attend.

Our Faith & Elections 2012

The 2012 Elections are a few days away. And Paul Dion, STL is reminding us all that the divine gift of freedom requires the exercise of prudential judgment. To be righteous we must always prudentially choose the right thing to do. While it is true that there are some realities in life that are intrinsically evil, they aren't "intrinsically evil" because we choose them. They are "intrinsically evil" in and of themselves. To say that there is a difference between "instrinsically evil acts" and those acts which are the result of "prudential judgement" is not correct. It is our moral responsibility to make our choice in favor of intrinsic good, always. We make it not simply to avoid evil, but to always celebrate good.

He also addresses the biblical explanation of taxes, a hot and heavy topic in this election cycle. He concludes that taxes are not evil. What bedevils most citizens of any given country is the misuse of the tribute that is collected. That misuse is a violation of the human bond of trust and security that taxes are meant to construct. That doesn't make taxes evil. It makes those who govern fall into evil ways.

Diane M. Korzeniewski, OCDS reports that some parishes are holding all-night Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on Election Eve. If your parish isn't having anything, get a group of people together to approach the pastor and ask for Monday night or Tuesday Adoration. This is a great opportunity for families to make the spiritual battle a part of the civic duty - to show young people that even voting should spring forth from prayer and that things like life and liberty come before convenience.

And George Weigel effectively sums up our election coverage for the year. He says voting is not simply a privilege; it is a noble privilege because it asks each of us to bring our best judgment to bear on matters of grave consequence. The voting booth isn’t the confessional. But like the confessional, he says it should be entered only after serious moral reflection and prayer.

Sexting, Temptation, Tattoos and Pro Baseball

Stacy Trasancos talks about "Sexting, Sexcasting, and Moral Foundations." In a culture where kids grow up inundated with sexual language, sexual images, sexual music, sexual television, sexual education and encouragement to explore their sexual selves — parents, nonetheless, expressed horror to learn that kids were sending nude and sexually suggestive or explicit pictures to each other with their mobile phones. You need to read her piece.

And to close this week's issue, Patrick Carney talks about Phillies MLB pitcher Justin De Fratus who wears a permanent reminder to resist temptation. At the base of his thumb and index finger are two letters and two Greek symbols - the Chi-Ro. They remind him of his commitment to God and his Catholic faith. “It means Jesus Christ,” he says with a smile as he looks at it. “The P and the X were the first two letters of His name in Greek. We got the Alpha and the Omega there, because, you know, ‘I am the beginning and I am the end.’” Check out his story of faith, temptation and salvation.

Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.

Keep the Faith. Peace.

Wally Arida
Publisher & Editor in chief

BURNING QUESTION: What commandments require restitution?
FEATURED BLOG: Campaign 2012 — What Voting Means PASTORAL HISPANA: Amar al prójimo vale

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