Scripture for Sunday: Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. 5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. 6 Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. 7 Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. 8 Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, 9 and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.
Notes on The Text:
The book of Deuteronomy is a farewell speech (or actually three) by Moses to the people of ancient Israel as they were about to enter the Land of Promise. He wanted to remind them of what was really important about God’s teachings to them. Under the leadership of Moses, the people of ancient Israel left the oppression of slavery in Egypt. Moses led them through their long time in the wilderness to help shape them into the values of the kingdom of God; values of justice, peace, and love. God provided them with the laws they needed to live out the values of the kingdom of God. Part of that law was what we know today as the Ten Commandments. But there is a lot more to the Law of Moses than just the Ten Commandments. The law included pretty much every aspect of their lives: Economic, social, spiritual, and personal. This was all outlined in Exodus. Deuteronomy, meaning “second law,” is the reaffirmation of the covenant between God and the people of Israel. Here the legal tradition of the book of Exodus (the covenant code) is not just repeated, it is reinterpreted in contemporary terms, so that the promises and demands of the covenant were brought near to every worshipping Israelite.
The theme of freedom is central to the identity of the people of God. It included the external freedom from the tyranny of the Egyptians, but it also included their internal state of freedom. We can relate to that. We can be free on the outside, but our internal state could be enslaving us to thoughts, feelings, and actions that harm us. The key to the Israelite’s freedom was focusing on their deep desire for God. If other things got in the way, they would lose their freedom. If they placed their focus on power, possessions, or esteem, they would be enslaved by these false idols. Freedom is not about chaos and doing whatever comes to one’s mind. Freedom is about learning to live through an inner sense of peace, that place of deep love within the heart.
This commandment to love God is what the Jewish people often highlight as the foundation for their faith. It is a pivotal scripture that the religious scholar and most all the people of ancient Israel would have known by heart. It is part of Jewish morning and evening prayers till this day. When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, he highlighted the command to love God and to love neighbors. All the other commandments about not stealing, killing, or cheating are rooted in one’s love for God. Here is one of my favorite quotes about loving God by Fr. Pedro Arupe,
“Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
When you hear the invitation to love God with all your heart, soul, and might, what does it evoke in you? What does it mean for us today to love God? Why is it important for us to remember that the love of God is the most essential part of our lives? How does it protect us from the slaveries/addictions of our own day?
This week we are pondering the inspiration that comes from the second step of the Twelve Steps of AA, “came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” The challenge of this step is not just that some of us believe in God while others don’t. This step is about something much deeper! In his book Breathing Under Water Richard Rohr writes that this step is about opening up three spaces in ourselves at the same time: “Our opinionated head, our closed-down heart, and our defensive and defended body.” It is about letting go of the defense mechanisms we acquired in childhood to protect ourselves and which often hinder us from the freedom of being in the fullness of God’s love. Richard Rohr challenges us to allow love to open our minds, our hearts, and our bodies. If God’s love is to heal us, we need to open our minds through contemplative practices of prayer. If God is to heal us, we need to open our hearts through being honest about our old hurts and wounds to let them go. If God is to heal us, we need to open our bodies to let go of memories and the negative energies of past hurts. Rohr writes, “the work of spirituality is the ongoing liberation of head, heart, and body, toward full luminous seeing and living, and not a mere mental ‘decision for Jesus’ or the one-time insurance policy of sacraments received. Most head churches do not touch the heart, most heart churches do not bother with the head, and almost all of them ignore the body as if of no account.”
Here are a few questions to ponder from Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water Companion Journal:
How do you get in the way of your own healing and growth? Name three of your defensive behaviors. What can you do to being to change at least one? What helps you stay open to life?
Prayer of the Heart by Joyce Rupp:
For surely I know the plans I have in mind for you, says God, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then, when you call upon me and come and pray to me, I will hear you. When you search for me with all your heart, I will let you find me, says God…
O God, we seek you with all our heart. The longing for you is planted
deep within our hearts. Hear our cry for you. Help us to welcome you
in all of life.
They are not afraid of evil tidings; their hearts are firm, secure in God.
Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid.
We place our trust in you, Loving Companion, for you are here
in the most difficult of times. We praise and thank you for the gift
of your compassionate love, which encourages and strengthens us.
I have indeed received much joy and encouragement from your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you…
Thank you, Heart of Love, for those people who have come into
our lives and refreshed us, for all those people who have given us
new hope on our journey, especially in our weary moments.
I will remove their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh….
Forgive us, Merciful One, for those times when our hearts were
hard and unwilling to forgive or to offer understanding. Forgive
us for our impatience with our own growth or with that of others.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Come into those corners of our hearts where we still have not
discovered the treasure of you, God. Purify us of all the stuff
that distracts us and fools us and gets us off course from our
inner journey with you.
Deuteronomy 6:5 (also, Mk12:30)
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…
Teach us what it means to love you with all our heart. Guide and
direct us to make good decisions each day so that we will grow
ever more fully in love with you, God.
I will give them a heart to know that I am their God…for they shall return to me with
their whole heart.
How wonderful you are, God of love, to continually draw us into
your embrace. You yearn for us to know you more fully. You call
us to return to you with the fullness of our love. Receive our prayer
this day which we offer to you with trust and with a deep desire to be
more one with you. Amen.