By Anne Armstrong,
Religious Curriculum Coordinator
The Word of God is meant to be proclaimed, to be listened to and lived out in a community of believers. It should not just be read alone, in silence, although this is a practice that allows our own individual faith and personal relationship with God to mature. There is good reason for this tradition. In preliterate cultures, the people could hear the Word being preached and respond to this word as a community. Their faith was expressed in community and through community.
In Jewish life the Word of God is expressed and lived through the Shema, or the Great Commandment. It is central to Jewish life, teaching and faith. The Shema begins with the word “Hear’.
The Shema – In English
Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.
Blessed is His name, whose glorious kingdom is forever and ever.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your soul, and all your might. These words that I command you today shall be upon your heart. Repeat them to your children, and talk about them when you sit in your home, and when you walk in the street; when you lie down, and when you rise up. Hold fast to them as a sign upon your hand, and let them be as reminders before your eyes. Write them on the doorposts of your home and at your gates.
Deuteronomy 6: 4-9
The Shema is a daily affirmation of allegiance to God and to the covenant obligations that allegiance entails. Jewish believers understand and live this through rituals expression and lived experience.
In Jewish thinking imperative verbs imply not only a cognitive or mental processing but a simultaneous bodily action, for example
Hear (and obey)
Say (and do)
God said and it was done – we see this in the Creation story in Genesis and in the Annunciation (Be it done according to your word). God’s word is his promise, his intention, his living out of covenant.
In our culture we understand that saying and doing are not distinct parts of an act but a continuum of an act. They are the breathing of life into an action. We see this in such sayings ‘His word is his bond’.
The writer of Psalm 19 understood this as well, “Your words Lord are Spirit and Life.” The word of God animates us, motivates us, engages us.
The young man of a recent Sunday Gospel story also knew his commandments and the importance of the Word of God. He was a faithful Jew, a prospering Jew, yet when Jesus asks him what he will give up to be a follower of Jesus, he hesitates.
Theologian, Dr Scott Hahn puts it this way
This preference, this love, requires a leap of faith. We must trust in His promise—that all good things will come to us in His company.
What, then, are the “many possessions” that keep us from giving ourselves totally to God? What are we clinging to—material things, comfort zones, relationships? What will it take for us to live fully for Christ’s sake and the sake of the Gospel?
What else do we need to do to live and proclaim the Word of God in our own lives and communities?
One of my granddaughter’s favourite movies is Frozen. Needless to say she loves singing the theme song, ‘Let it go.” These lyrics beautifully express the theme of this Gospel challenge. The secular world provides us with many reminders of theological truths.
October is my favourite month for saints. It is a veritable feast of Feast Days, leading into November 1, the Feast of All Saints. The saints in this month, St Therese of Lisieux, a Japanese family of martyrs, the Chakichis, Father, Mother, and two young sons, St Francis of Assisi, St Faustina, Cardinal Newman, Pope John 23, recently canonised Oscar Romero, St Teresa of Avila, Ignatius of Antioch. These saints certainly live out the Gospel values promoted by Jesus in last Sunday’s readings. And they lived lives from the beginning of the Church (Ignatius of Antioch) to now (Oscar Romero). They span continents, cultures and time lines and yet their message and example are strikingly similar. They all learned to let Go and let God; to trust in God’s teachings, they followed the Commandment ‘Love the Lord Your God with all your heart, mind and soul’ They are the living embodiment of the Shema, calling us to connect to our faith traditions.
Hopefully, we are providing opportunities for students in Religious Education to be inspired to live out the Word of God in their own lives, as witnesses to a living faith tradition, as part of the ever-growing Body of Christ. May we all be inspired by our October saints to place our trust in God and lead us to an ever deeper faith.
For more inspirational information on the lives and works of these saints see
For more explicit consideration of how we might listen to Jesus Call
http://johnmckinnon.org/index.php/homily-b28sun?showall=&limitstart= (John McKinnon)
https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2018/09/21/how-do-we-listen-jesus-call American Media a Jesuit magazine
http://www.stpaulcenter.com/wisdom-and-riches-scott-hahn-reflects-on-the-twenty-eighth-sunday-in-ordinary-time Scott Hahn Gospel Commentary
For a deeper understanding of the Shema
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/569543b4bfe87360795306d6/t/598ba5b8e3df28c8a48f09d7/1502324186428/InterpretingBible.pdf Interpreting the Bible. Scott Hahn