The Fourth Sunday before Advent
Deut 6.1-9 Mark 12.28-34
Preached by Fr Crispin Harrison CR
The lesson which we heard at Mattins, is part of an ancient Jewish prayer that devout Jews recite daily. ‘Hear O Israel the Lord our God is One Lord.’ Jesus Christ recited it every day all his life. It is called the Shema YIsrael. The prayer continues: ‘and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and might.’
Jesus said this commandment is the first of the Greatest Commandments and he went on to add the second ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ This command is found in Leviticus 19.18b.
But how are we to keep these two commands? How can we love God totally and entirely? How can we love everyone?
Tomorrow we will celebrate the festival of All Saints. Tonight is All Hallows Eve. The saints can show us how to love God with all our hearts, soul and might. Their lives were wholly committed to God and dedicated to serving all kinds of human need. The saints show us how to love our neighbours as ourselves.
In the early centuries of the Christian era there were many martyrs. United to God in their sufferings and death with Jesus they showed their total love for God and brought many blessings on the human race.
Last Monday we remembered the martyrs Saints Crispin and Crispinian, whose name I took when I became a novice in this Community. They were brothers, ordinary laymen who lived in Rome in the 3rd century. They worked in a shop mending and making footwear. Their trade brought them into contact with many people and they used the opportunity to tell their customers about Jesus Christ and the good news. Inevitably they were reported to the magistrates, tried for being Christians and put to death. Their relics are enshrined at Soissons in France and their memory has been celebrated in England since Saxon times. Like them we should use opportunities of social contact to witness to Christ and Christian life and values.
Another famous saint was the apostle and martyr, Peter, who died at Rome, crucified upside down because he said that he was unworthy to be crucified like Jesus. Ist He preached boldly after he received the Holy Spirit but the Gospels also tell us that when Jesus was arrested he denied that he was a follower of Jesus. Every saint has been a sinner. They knew that and asked God’s mercy and help. So God loved them and enabled them to return love for love.
Not all saints have been martyrs. Some have been great exponents of the faith and by words and writings rejected falsehood and helped Christians to have a true knowledge of God.
Earlier this month we observed the festival of the 19th century Carmelite nun, Theresa of Lisieux. In her autobiography she tells how just before her profession she felt very depressed and unsuitable because she did not know what God wanted her to be. Her doubts were settled when she read St Paul’s 1st letter to the Corinthians chapter 13. ‘I will show you a more excellent way. God’s greatest gift is love.’
‘Charity is the best way of all because it leads straight to God.’ Theresa exclaimed! ‘Jesus my love. I‘ve found my vocation and my vocation is love’. Indeed that is our vocation as well, the vocation of everyone; to love God and to love our neighbour.
The Calendar of Saints commemorates by name those the Church remembers with thanks to God.
Holy men and women, bishops, priests and deacons, religious, both monks and nuns, kings and queens, and all saints are wonderful examples of love in action. They worked among the poor, the destitute, the sick, the uneducated and still do. Their love has transformed lives and inspired many followers to join them in their works of charity and mercy.
Especially we must acknowledge blessed Mary, Mother of God and queen of Saints for her great love. She showed her love of God in the gift of herself, heart, soul and might, in obedience to God and love for Jesus her Son. On the cross Jesus made her our mother and the mother of all the human race. We turn confidently to her for help. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.