31st Sunday Ordinary Time - Year B
Hear, O Israel!
In Judaism, one of the closest things to a creed is the "Shema". Its name comes from the Hebrew word for "Hear". The statement "Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone" means that Israel will serve only one God. It probably was not originally meant to say that there were no other Gods, but that the people would not follow another. Monotheism, or the belief that there is only one divinity, would come later. Orthodox Jews wear the Shema in boxes or phylacteries on their arms and foreheads. They are also placed in containers, called "Mezuzahs" at front doors of their homes.
Jesus places an emphasis on the second part of the Shema, "You shall love the Lord..." He teaches the value of a personal bond with his Father and the Holy Spirit. To this injunction Jesus adds a verse from Leviticus 19:18 "You shall love your neighbor..."
Moses appointed his own relatives as the first Jewish priests. His family came from the tribe of Levi. They were required to offer animal sacrifices for the people, but first had to offer them for their own sins. The latter obligation came from the belief that daily contact with the world rendered them ritually impure. They could not, for example, enter a room where a dead body lay. Other ritual impurities forced them to make continual sacrifices for their sins before they could pray.
Jesus had no such constraints because he is the son of God. His offering on the cross eliminated the need for any further sacrifices.
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