For the first fifteen years of my life, I grew up in a very traditional parish of the Anglican Church of Canada. While I never regret my choice to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church, there are still aspects of the liturgy that I miss very dearly. One of these was the act of contrition at the beginning of the service. The priest would face the congregation and declare: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD thy God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, with all thy mind and with all thy strength. This is the first and greatest commandment, and the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” The congregation would then sing in reply: “Lord, have mercy upon us, and write both these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech Thee.” A very good reminder, every Sunday, of what matters.
We have no other work on this earth, other than to love the Lord with every ounce of our being, with everything that we have; and to love those around us with a deep and genuine concern. These are the fundamentals, the bare bones of our lives — for what are vocation, career, friendship, romance, worship, liturgy, almsgiving, prayer… what is our life other than opportunities to love God with our whole hearts, and our neighbour as ourselves? We must remember too — Jesus heightens this second commandment further at the Last Supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34).
And yet, how often we forget this! In our lives, we become very very busy. We drone on and on, chanting the litanies of our to-do lists. There is the car insurance to be renewed, the altar servers to schedule for Mass, the dishes from lunch soaking in the sink, and the ones from last night still in the dishwasher, family and friends we wish we had the time to call, and groceries to be bought before the store closes, not to mention the unending list of things to do at work… We have so many daily troubles inscribed upon our minds — and yet what does God say?
“Hear, O Israel!”
Lord, have mercy upon us, and write these your greatest commandments in our hearts. Let us remember to put first things first, that everything we do is for the love of you and the love of our neighbour. Everything else hangs on this.
Solomon Ip – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta.
Fot. Jonathan Borba Azety/Unsplash.com