With all your heart, mind and soul

By | October 31, 2012

Our first reading records one of the most revered proclamations of all Israel, “Hear, O’ Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” This statement is called the “Shema” which means “hear” and is known, recited and proclaimed regularly by all devout disciples of Israel. Our Lord knew it well and embodied all that the statement demands. He included the capacity of the mind for God. He alone has lived the Shema perfectly, both in relationship to the Father in heaven and in right relationship with one’s neighbor.

In my own life, as I reflect on the Shema, it has very much helped with my examination of conscience. Since this is now the season of first reconciliations as we prepare for first Communions in the spring I have found it also to be a good helper for kids and adults. Jesus points us to the Shema and neighbor as the ultimate summation of what real love is. Looking at each of these areas of heart, mind and soul we can quickly examine the primary areas of sin in our life and our own calls to love and where we may have fallen short.

The “heart” can serve to embody everything that involves our relationship with others. Have I been patient, forgiving, faithful, honest? Have I served and helped where obliged? Have I spoken words of love, mercy or encouragement when called upon? Have I been jealous, envious, manipulative or resentful? You get the idea. The heart is a fickle place of either great love or cold darkness.

The “mind” and “strength” can serve as the path to our secular world and the more tangible. Have I used my mind to its full capacity at work? Have I put my full effort and strength into the obligations that are set before me as student, co-worker, sportsman or spouse. It can be easy at times to cut back on our expectations when we feel used or manipulated. Yet, justice asks us to carry on and address all things in proper order. This can be very difficult and trying.

The “soul” can pertain to everything that relates to God, strictly speaking. Have I placed God first in my life? Is this evidenced by my commitment to prayer, Mass, time with God, my willingness to let him make demands of change in my life. Has he been the primary influencer of how I treat, forgive and relate to others? Have I relied on his grace to carry me in this life? Have I been grateful to God for life, even in difficulty?

Loving God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength is a path to a life of peace, faith and fullness. It is not easy and we daily need God’s help to live it. He is very willing to do provide just this when we ask.

Questions for reflection

1. How does the Shema speak to me?

2. How would I examine my use of the senses of eyes, ears, mouth and touch?

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Bernard Parish and St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay.

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