Loving God with all Our Hearts and Minds – Manoling Francisco, SJ

Mark 12:28b-34, 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Shema, from the Hebrew word, “Hear”, is the fundamental Jewish prayer made up of three scriptural texts from the books of Deuteronomy (6:4–9, 11:13–21) and Numbers (15:37–41), which devout Jews recite upon rising in the morning and before retiring at night. The Shema is to the Jews what the Our Father is to us Christians.

Apart from honoring and paying allegiance to the One God, the Shema includes a commitment to study and observe the Torah, the law of Moses. The Pharisees prided themselves in their knowledge of the law and their ritual observance of such. They tested Jesus about the 613 precepts of the Torah. In response, Jesus in our Gospel reading today proclaimed that there is only central and fundamental law, which is the very heart of the Shema; that is, to “love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.”

To love and honor God is to abide by God’s will and to value what God values, such as human life.

The Story of Gabsy. While my eldest brother Ed and his wife Moy were stationed in HK, Moy twisted her ankle while doing house chores. Her doctor prescribed her to take antibiotics. Soon after, she discovered she was pregnant. Her ob-gyne, upon learning about the antibiotics she had taken, advised her to abort her baby, as there was the possibility that the fetus might be deformed. Moy and Ed were resolute in keeping their baby, Gabsy, who is now a full-grown young man, who recently graduated from Berkeley School of Music. To love and honor God is to value what God values.

But to love and honor God also entails denouncing whatever God detests, such as corruption, oppression and exploitation.

Example of Pharmally. As the senate conducts hearings on the government-awarded contracts to Pharmally worth P8.6 billion, it is becoming clear that the directors and managers of Pharmally have made millions in profit in supplying the government with face shields and other PPE. What adds insult to injury is that thousands of our healthworkers have not fully received their risk allowance and hazard pay.

To be indifferent to corruption and dishonesty in government, in particular, and in society, in general, is to dishonor God. To be silent about the underlying moral issues of political issues, such as the unresolved extrajudicial killing of thousands of Filipinos, some or many of whom may have been innocent of the drug charges made on them or the alleged anomalous sale of Chevron’s shares in the Malampaya natural oil project to Udenna Corporation, is to be uninvolved in the things that matter to God. God cares about honesty and moral integrity. God cares about the common good and the sharing of resources which he has created with everyone. To claim that the Church and Christians have no say in political matters is to be silent and uncaring about what matters to God.

To the most fundamental commandment to love and honor God, Jesus adds, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, for loving God and one’s neighbor are inseparable. For one cannot love God whom we cannot see without loving our neighbors whom we can see.

Witness of NGOs helping rice farmers. The past year and a half I have been fortunate to collaborate with NGOs and cooperatives helping our rice farmers market their milled rice. Our farmers have been having difficulty selling their rice due to the influx of cheaper imported rice from Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. The other week Jopi and Jayca of Philrice texted, asking for help to save the mature rice stalks of Pangasinan farmers threatened by storms and heavy rains. Apart from Jopi and Jayca, I’ve met Sheila Abucay who has been helping vegetable farmers in Isabela, Alex Cancio who has been assisting members of their rice cooperative in Tarlac, and many others. They have been devoting their time and energy to help our farmers sustain their livelihoods, without any personal gain. In them I have seen what it means to love one’s neighbor as oneself.

Lastly, this long weekend, as we celebrate All Saints Day and All Souls Day, we won’t be able to trek to the cemeteries. But perhaps we can bear in mind that while the Shema and our Lord Jesus invite us to love God with all our hearts and minds, it is the Lord who has first loved us with all his heart and mind, who continues to love steadfastly and who loves us enough to share eternity with us.

We pray that the Lord welcome our loved ones, especially those who have died recently due to the Covid virus and breath into them his eternity. May our loved ones watch over us from above. And together with the angels and saints, may we love God with all our hearts, minds and souls. Amen

*image from the Internet (Presentation Guru)

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