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Bible Reflections View Comments

“The Lord Is Our God, the Lord Alone”
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, November 4, 2012
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Many of us in the United States will breathe a huge sigh of relief this coming Wednesday when the campaign ads finally stop polluting the airwaves, the roadside billboards and nearly every page we visit online. In the din, it’s difficult to hear a call to prayer, a call to recognize that God, not any elected official, deserves our undying loyalty. Those working to get our vote have discovered that the best way to do that is to appeal to our most selfish personal interests. “What’s in it for me?” can be the short-sighted but persuasive basis for our judgments in politics, in business, in other day-to-day decisions.

But as we go to vote this week, we also need to keep in mind Jesus’s interpretation of the central Hebrew prayer: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord Alone.” For Jesus, and so for us, love for God can best be expressed in love for our neighbor. And, as we know from other passages in the Gospel, the word neighbor has the broadest possible interpretation, extending even to our enemies.

Our first reading from Deuteronomy is known in Judaism as the Shema, (Hebrew for “Hear”). It is recited every day by faithful Jews. It is part of the Scripture passage that is inserted in the mezuzah (a small decorative box) fastened to the doorway of Jewish homes.

There’s a reason for this prayer being part of one’s daily routine. We need a constant reminder that the Lord is our God, not merely one of many other things, people and ideologies vying for our attention. In the days of Moses, it was a question of other cultures and their many religious idols. In our own day, it’s less religious idolatry than the many demands that the world makes on our time.

It can be far too easy to take our faith for granted. We can get so much more enthusiastic about a sports team, a political campaign, a business venture, a hobby, pouring time and money and energy into pursuits that are at best temporary victories. To some extent, this is because it’s difficult to package and sell religion in the same glitzy way that so much else is marketed. We rightly perceive such attempts as being false to the central message, over-the-top, and desperate. We don’t mind when advertisers rely on fake smiles to sell toothpaste. We mind a great deal when they do the same thing to sell salvation.

Jesus takes our relationship with God, rightly the central point in our lives, and expands our focus so that what we need to do is right in front of us at all times. We can say we love God and then go about our daily business as though it doesn’t make a difference. But if we say we love others, we will have to reckon with the many ways in which we demonstrate that on a daily basis. And Jesus reminds his listeners that religious ritual is no substitution for genuine love for others.

One of the most divisive issues in this year’s political campaigns has been the question of care for the poor and needy. It may have seemed easier in Jesus’ day, although we know from the Gospels that even then, even in the days of the prophets, there was a tendency to ignore those in need. If everyone who professes faith in God is committed to doing everything possible to help those who lack the basics—food, clothing, shelter, health care, work— then, in fact, we will not be far from the kingdom of God.


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Augustine of Hippo: A Christian at 33, a priest at 36, a bishop at 41: Many people are familiar with the biographical sketch of Augustine of Hippo, sinner turned saint. But really to get to know the man is a rewarding experience. 
<p>There quickly surfaces the intensity with which he lived his life, whether his path led away from or toward God. The tears of his mother (August 27), the instructions of Ambrose (December 7) and, most of all, God himself speaking to him in the Scriptures redirected Augustine’s love of life to a life of love. </p><p>Having been so deeply immersed in creature-pride of life in his early days and having drunk deeply of its bitter dregs, it is not surprising that Augustine should have turned, with a holy fierceness, against the many demon-thrusts rampant in his day. His times were truly decadent—politically, socially, morally. He was both feared and loved, like the Master. The perennial criticism leveled against him: a fundamental rigorism. </p><p>In his day, he providentially fulfilled the office of prophet. Like Jeremiah and other greats, he was hard-pressed but could not keep quiet. “I say to myself, I will not mention him,/I will speak in his name no more./But then it becomes like fire burning in my heart,/imprisoned in my bones;/I grow weary holding it in,/I cannot endure it” (Jeremiah 20:9).</p> American Catholic Blog Silence is the ability to trust that God is acting, teaching, and using me—even before I perform or after my seeming failures. Silence is the necessary space around things that allows them to develop and flourish without my pushing. God takes it from there.

 
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