A reflection for the thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time

Alice Camille reflects on the readings for October 31, 2021.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Deuteronomy 6:2–6
Psalm 18:2–4, 47, 51
Hebrews 7:23–28
Mark 12:28–34

Reflection: Love, love, love

Music is essential to any liturgy, a priest once told me. No one leaves the church humming the homily. Melody makes everything more memorable. So let’s put this week’s message to the test:

Love, love, love
(So the Beatles sang)
Love, love, love
(And the scriptures claim)
Love, love, love
(But how can
This be
All that we
Need to do?)

The old song insists all we need is love. And the teachings of Moses and Jesus agree: Love with your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. For some of us, this is good news. As one 10-year-old in my religious education class used to say: Christianity is easy! We just have to love people!

Yet we all know someone who becomes positively disagreeable when religious observance is boiled down to this easy-peasy message. They claim religion is supposed to be hard! Jesus hangs on a cross for a reason! If we’re going to follow a suffering Lord, we should have a rather bad time of it ourselves.


So who’s right: Is the gospel easy or hard? Both are right! The gospel is simple; but love is no cakewalk. Couples vow to love exclusively, remaining loyal even when circumstances change—and circumstances always change. Parents love their babies, even though they have no idea what this little life will turn out to be. That’s a big risk: to make a lifelong pledge to a virtual stranger! Friends can be friendly—but sometimes, disappointing. There’s also that business about loving our enemies. When Jesus talks love, it’s more than just holding hands.

The mandate to love goes even wider. Consider what the scriptures say here. Love God and neighbor. As we love ourselves. This is a summons to empathy. Because, of course, we can’t know how anyone else feels—but we do know how we feel. Let’s presume everyone we meet has a burden like ours: whether it’s fragile health, a troubled child, a relationship gone awry, or the incredible shortness of cash. Maybe they’ve lost a dear one. Or they’ve made some bad decisions they regret. As the saying goes: Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle today.

Empathy is only possible if we take each person’s battles as seriously as our own. Including the struggles of folks who live across town, across borders, across race and culture, across the political divide. Remember how, when Jesus says love your neighbor, some wise guy asks: But who is my neighbor? So Jesus tells the story of the one person no one in his audience wants to love. Imagine who that person might be for you. The one person you don’t want to make room for in your heart. That’s your neighbor. And Jesus asks that we make that person’s battles our own.

Religion is hard. Jesus does hang on a cross for a reason! So the message we should leave humming today is:

Love, love, love
(Is really, really,
All that we
Need to do.)