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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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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