A Reflection on the Readings for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time, October 31, 2021
Reading I: Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Responsorial Psalm: 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
Reading II: Hebrews 7:23-28
Gospel: Mark 12:28b-34
Last week, I was outside my home getting the mail when I saw out of the corner of my eye my elderly next-door neighbor very slowly shuffling to her front door, carrying her groceries. I am an introvert, so I instinctively averted my eyes, hoping not to make eye contact. It’s amazing how many thoughts ran through my brain – what if she doesn’t want my help? What if I would offend her for asking? She probably would prefer I mind my own business. You know, the usual thoughts that are always ready to chime in to justify one’s actions.
Just then, she stopped as if the next step would cause the grocery bags to tear from the bottom, and the items inside would fall out. That’s when my selfish thoughts stopped, and I ran over to help her. It is astounding that the Holy Spirit can work through me despite myself.
In today’s Gospel, a scribe, after seeing Jesus interrogated by others before him, seems to quiz Jesus, asking him what the greatest commandment is. Jesus answers him, “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.” Mk 12:29-31.
The scribe agrees with Jesus. And Jesus tells him undoubtedly the most wonderful words the scribe has ever heard anyone say to him: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Mk 12:34.
The last sentence of this chapter really got me: “And after that no one dared to ask him any question.” Mk 12:34.
It seems to be a little victory after all the questioning Jesus has had to endure, as the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians were trying to “entrap him in his talk.” Mk 12:13.
But that last line is something all too familiar to me. Sometimes I do not want to ask Jesus more questions out of fear of what the answer might be.
Jesus spoke so true that the first and greatest commandment is that there is one God and we are to love him with our whole selves, and next, to love others as we love ourselves. When I saw my elderly neighbor struggling with groceries, my gut instinct was to turn away and not help. I was operating out of fear, not love. The woman had to come to a complete stop for me to take some action to help her – to love her.
I think that’s part of the reason no one else dared to ask Jesus more questions. Fear. Not love. Because if what Jesus answered next required them to do something they did not want to do or were afraid to do, that would be so uncomfortable. Yet, so often, love requires us to be uncomfortable, step out of our comfort zones. And so frequently, all I can see at a moment of opportunity to love is the invisible uncomfortable feeling and nothing beyond. I forget the “land flowing with milk and honey,” the grace that flows from the aftermath of acting from love. Dt 6:3. I forget the gifts that come from loving God and neighbor, some we can see now, and some we won’t see until we have passed from our earthly home.
What I do know now is that my neighbor’s husband was in the hospital undergoing heart surgery at the time. She has raised five sons. She has absolutely beautiful curtains in her front room. And yesterday, she cheerfully waved to me on her drive out of the neighborhood. Seemingly small, simple things, yet lovely things. And I cannot wait for more lovely moments in the future.
Author: Katy Mauer Cabrera