Cycle (B) 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time

 Deut 6:2-6; Heb 7:22-28; Mk 12:28-34.

The central message of today's readings is the most fundamental principle of all religions. It is to love God in loving others and to love others in loving God.

In history we find thousands of people who have manifested their love for God even by sacrificing their lives.

On 3 June 1886, thirty-two young men, pages of the court of King Mwanga of Buganda, were burned to death at Namugongo for their refusal to renounce Christianity. In the following months many other Christians throughout the country died by spear or fire for their faith.

Initially, the young Kabacka had been impressed by Christianity: He liked what he saw and heard of the Christian message, and he also recognized that his people would benefit from the education and skills that the missionaries had brought with them.

After some weeks of tension, which stretched over Eastertide, the young men at court sensed that a major drama was about to unfold. He demanded that they give up their ways of prayer and return to unstinting obedience to him in all things.  King  Kabacka's rage had been fueled by the increasing reluctance of his young Christian subjects to indulge immoral activities. Death was the punishment for opposing the whims and wishes of this absolute sovereign. But the boys stood firm. Arrested and bound, with ropes cutting into their wrists and feet, they prayed and sang hymns. The older boys, especially Charles  wanga, taught and encouraged the younger ones, notably Kizito. The youngest of all, he was just 14, and alternated between radiant enthusiasm for Christ and a shaking fear of the death that now awaited them.

 The boys prayed and sang hymns as they were rolled in rush matting and dragged to the fire.

When Jesus quoted the statement, "You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might and with all your strength," every devout Jew would agree with him. Loving God with our whole heart is the key to everything in life; because our relationship with God affects everything and everyone in our life.  St. Augustine wrote: "Love God – and do what you like."

The second most important commandment is "You should love your neighbour as yourself." Hillel was a famous Jewish religious leader. Once he was asked by someone to instruct him in the whole law while he stood on one leg. Hille's answer was, "What thou hatest for thyself, do not do to thy neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary."

Once a person approached Sri Ramanujacharya and said, "I want to love God. Please let me know how I can love God the way you do"

Sri Ramanuja said, "Have you loved anybody before?"

The man replied, "I have been very busy looking for God. So I kept away from love"

Sri Ramanuja urged, "Think properly, do you remember loving a friend, a woman, a pet animal or something?"

The man replied, "I deliberately kept away from loving anybody...I just want to love God. Please show me the way to do it"

Sri Ramanuja for the third time tried to prompt him, "Search your past. Try to recall if you ever have tasted love a little"

The man grew impatient, “I have approached you to know the way to love God. Please show me a way. Why do you ask me such questions that are unrelated?"

Sri Ramanuja replied, "Then it is very difficult. Had you loved someone it would have been easy to grasp my words. Loving someone is to lose oneself in that love. It is to dissolve your ego, your individuality in the very love. Had you experienced love, I would have shown you the way to God. Since you have not loved, you will not understand what I say!”

So Jesus put these two commandments together and taught to love God is to have unconditional love for all beings. No Rabi had ever done that before. Religion to him was loving God and loving men.

The scribe had willingly accepted it, and went on to say that such a love was better than all sacrifices. Hosea had heard God say, "I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice." (Hosea 6:6). But sometimes rituals take the place of love. So we have to be extremely careful that we are able to manifest our love for God, by expressing our love for our brothers and sisters.