Deuteronomy’s reading from Chapter 6 holds holy words: Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. The Shema is a Jewish prayer, repeated daily. The sage message is to be recited to children and discussed at home and away, whether we lie down or rise up. The words are to be bound and fixed on our bodies and written on our doorposts and gates. We are not to forget ever that the Lord is our God, but rather we are to serve this One who has redeemed us and brought us out of slavery.
Psalm 18 continues to extol this God: I love you, Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the source of my salvation. This is the God who is worthy to be praised, who hears my cry, and shows love to all. This is the One we can count on.
Matthew’s Gospel after the transfiguration has a man coming to Jesus, kneeling before him, and begging for the Lord’s mercy for his son, an epileptic who suffers terribly. The disciples of Christ could not cure him due to their lack of faith. This Son of God, worthy of our praise, whom we love with all our heart, soul and might, cures the boy instantly. This is our God at work.
This is the God in whom I trust, even when the road is bumpy and the way unclear. More accurately, this is the God whom I choose to trust especially when all else is uncertain. I have known from an early age that I love God with everything I have. I may have wandered away from church over the decades, but I always stayed close to the Trinity. I know no other Love quite like God’s despite having amazing people who are generous and kind. This human love brings many blessings but this Divine Love is Perfect.
Last night over supper friends and I were talking about who is first in our lives. We were discussing single blessedness, a term I had not heard before. I believe that whether one is single or married, that God must come first–God deserves all of our hearts in return for the Love that is given to us. The Fourth Week of the Spiritual Exercises is a meditation on this Love. The Generous Giver sparks our hearts and moves us to live out love in relationships and ministries. How we prioritize the other “loves” of our lives will vary–spouses, children, siblings, parents, friends, and ourselves will rank differently for each person. As the Principle and Foundation of the Exercises state, we are created to love, honour, and serve God. Love drives us to action. Love begins with the Creator. How can we hold back our love when we have been given so much? Hear, O Israel is still a pertinent modern-day harkening. We need to hear the stunning words of the Shema anew and let them be carved upon our hearts.
How much of your heart, soul and might are given to God?
How does God use your love to serve in the world?
Hear O Peoples,
The Lord is God.
Love with your whole self
Your heart, soul and strength
Love the One worthy of praise
Blessed be God forever
Whom I will serve with joy.