31st Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
October 31, 2021
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.







Almighty and merciful God,
by whose gift your faithful offer you
right and praiseworthy service,
grant, we pray,
that we may hasten without stumbling
to receive the things you have promised.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever. Amen.

First Reading Dt 6:2-6

Moses spoke to the people, saying:
"Fear the LORD, your God,
and keep, throughout the days of your lives,
all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you,
and thus have long life.
Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them,
that you may grow and prosper the more,
in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers,
to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

"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.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today."

Responsorial Psalm Ps 18:2-3,3-4,47,51


R/. I love you, Lord, my strength.

I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.

My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.

The LORD lives! And blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.

Second Reading Heb 7:23-28

Brothers and sisters:
The levitical priests were many
because they were prevented by death from remaining in office,
but Jesus, because he remains forever,
has a priesthood that does not pass away.
Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make intercession for them.

It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:
holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,
higher than the heavens.
He has no need, as did the high priests,
to offer sacrifice day after day,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people;
he did that once for all when he offered himself.
For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests,
but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,
appoints a son,
who has been made perfect forever.

Alleluia Jn 14:23


Gospel Mk 12:28b-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
"Which is the first of all the commandments?"
Jesus replied, "The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.

The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these."
The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
'He is One and there is no other than he.'
And 'to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself'
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
"You are not far from the kingdom of God."
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Reflection Questions

  1. How have you “grown and prospered the more” by loving God above all else?
  2. How do you approach God through the mediation of Christ the Priest?
  3. Are you far from the kingdom of God?

Catena Nova

Christ looks for nothing else from you, in fact, Scripture says, than loving him with all your heart and carrying out his commands. I mean, obviously the person who loves him in the way he ought to love is also ready to carry out his commands. You see, when one is kindly disposed to another, he takes pains to do everything able to attract the loved one to love for him. So, we too, if we sincerely love the Lord, will manage to discharge his commands and do nothing capable of angering our loved one. This is the kingdom of heaven; this, the enjoyment of goods; this, blessings beyond number, being found worthy to love him sincerely and in the manner he deserves. Our love for him will be genuine if we give evidence of great love for our fellow servants as well as for him (St. John Chrysostom).

This virtue [of charity] consists in nothing else but in loving what is worthy of love; it is prudence to choose this, fortitude to be turned from it by no obstacles, temperance to be enticed by no allurements, justice to be diverted by no pride. Why do we choose what we exclusively love, except that we find nothing better? But this is God, and if we prefer or equate any creature with God, we know nothing about loving ourselves. We are made better by approaching closer to him than whom nothing is better. We go to him not by walking, but by loving. We will have him more present to us in proportion as we are able to purify the love by which we draw near to him, for he is not spread through or confined by corporeal space; he is everywhere present and everywhere wholly present, and we go to him not by the motion of our feet but by our conduct. Conduct is not usually discerned by what one knows but by what one loves; good or bad love makes good or bad conduct (St. Augustine of Hippo).

We become what we love and who we love shapes what we become. If we love things, we become a thing. If we love nothing, we become nothing. Imitation is not a literal mimicking of Christ, rather it means becoming the image of the beloved, an image disclosed through transformation. This means we are to become vessels of God’s compassionate love for others (St. Clare of Assisi).

What is our reason for loving God? God himself is the reason we love him; we love him because he is the supreme and infinite goodness. What is our reason for loving ourselves? Surely because we are the image and likeness of God. And since all men and women possess this same dignity we love them as ourselves, that is, as holy and living images of the Godhead. To have a Christian love for our neighbors is to love God in them, or them in God....So it is then that the same charity produces together acts of the love of God and of our neighbor. As Jacob saw that the same ladder touching heaven and earth was used by the angels both for ascending and descending, so we can be sure that the same charity cherishes both God and our neighbor, raising us even to spiritual union with God, and bringing us back to loving companionship with our neighbors. It must always be understood, however, that we love our neighbors for this reason, that they are made in the image and likeness of God, created to communicate in his goodness, share in his grace, and rejoice in his glory. To have a Christian love for our neighbors is to love God in them, or them in God; it is to cherish God alone for his own sake, and his creatures for love of him. When we look upon our neighbors, created in the image and likeness of God, should we not say to each other: “Look at these people he has made—are they not like their maker?”....This is why divine Love not only repeatedly commands us to love our neighbors, but also itself produces this love and pours it out into our hearts, since they bear its own image and likeness; for just as we are the image of God, so our holy love for one another is the true image of our heavenly love for God (St. Francis de Sales).

Our love for people is a measure of our love for God. But it differs from the natural love for people. Natural love is for one or the other person connected to us by blood  ties or by similar character or common interests. The others are "strangers" who are "not our concern", even ugly by their nature, so that they are kept as far away as possible. For the Christians there is no "stranger". He is the "neighbor" whom we have before us and who needs us, whether he is related or not, whether we "like" him or not, whether he is "morally worthy" of help or not. The love of Christ knows no bounds, it never stops, it is not afraid of ugliness and dirt. Christ came for sinners and not for the righteous. And when the love of Christ lives in us, we do as he does and follow the lost sheep (St. Edith Stein; Teresa Benedicta of the Cross).

People are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it (C.S. Lewis).

Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything (Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ).


You’re Kidding, Right?

            Do you mean the scofflaws on dirt bikes who turned my street into a noisy speedway all summer long?  Do you mean the telemarketers who interrupt me several times a day?  How about the lady next door with her several dogs that bark multiple times from morning to night?  Then there’s the woman pushing a baby stroller – with baby – who crossed in front of me in a parking lot, paying no attention to where she was going because her nose was buried in a cellphone.  How about the people I meet while driving who could not care less about the rules of the road?  And dare I say, the politicians I rail against every time I watch the news?  Surely I’m not supposed to love all these people, Lord! 

            When I turned 65 I thought I had earned a place in the Grumpy Old Men’s Club.  I sometimes think I’m a cross between Lewis Black of The Rant is Due fame, and the scholarly but cantankerous St. Jerome with his pet lion by his side.  (I would have said Andy Rooney of 60 Minutes, but that would really date me!)  Yes, there seems to be no end to the irritants of daily life.  Fortunately, I live a mostly cloistered life thanks to retirement and the pandemic.  I venture out these days mostly for groceries – where I always end up behind someone who needs a price check or whose coupons have expired.  If the cashier thanks me for my patience, I blush.

            Now I admit most of my lapses in charity are of the thought variety; after all, that is one variety of sin along with word and deed.  I also realize the pandemic has made us all more fragile when it comes to tolerance and patience over others’ foibles.  Trouble is, such seemingly minor failures in love can soon escalate into far more serious things such as “air-rage” incidents on planes, in episodes of school violence including parents at school board meetings acting out,  the endless shootings on our city streets, and yes, even attempted insurrections.  It seems we are all too ready as a society to give vent not just to our pet peeves but to full-blown hatreds.  The politicization of the pandemic has served in particular to give free rein to the ever wider and ever deeper polarization in this country.  It seems that policy issues of whatever kind are secondary considerations or altogether irrelevant since it is much more satisfying to have kneejerk reactions about something simply because “the other side” favors or opposes them.

            Would it surprise you to learn that a poll conducted over the summer found that 37% of respondents showed a “willingness” for their state to secede from the union?  With Republicans in the South being the most willing at 66% while 39% and 47% of Democrats in the Northeast and Pacific states respectively are so willing.  I realize such responses should be interpreted cautiously but it is alarming to say the least that even a lapse of civic charity one might harbor “in thought” would now be voiced “in word.”

            And there’s certainly no lack of verbal sins against charity in the current climate of recrimination.  The recent revelations about social media should leave no doubt that the things people are willing to say online, even if anonymously, are a major source of pollution in this country’s toxic climate and doing real damage to individual lives as well as the commonweal – along with the trigger finger you might have for expressing outrage via a comment box or even an email.  I am grateful for never having joined Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and, frankly, I would counsel most anybody to do the same.

            Now we Christians have every reason to take the lead in lowering the temperature in heated debates, in turning the volume down on all the outrage, and in resisting the urge to cancel someone, whether online, in our conversation, or even from our life.  If we don’t then our allegiance to the Great Commandment is in danger of becoming little more than lip service.

            We could take our cue from Pope Francis in his encyclical on human fraternity where we read of something that’s bound to sound like an oxymoron these days: “political love.”  He writes,

Recognizing that all people are our brothers and sisters, and seeking forms of social friendship that include everyone, is not merely utopian. It demands a decisive commitment to devising effective means to this end. Any effort along these lines becomes a noble exercise of charity. For whereas individuals can help others in need, when they join together in initiating social processes of fraternity and justice for all, they enter the “field of charity at its most vast, namely political charity”.  This entails working for a social and political order whose soul is social charity.  Once more, I appeal for a renewed appreciation of politics as “a lofty vocation and one of the highest forms of charity, inasmuch as it seeks the common good”.

Every commitment inspired by the Church’s social doctrine is “derived from charity, which according to the teaching of Jesus is the synthesis of the entire Law (cf. Mt 22:36-40)”. This means acknowledging that “love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world”. For this reason, charity finds expression not only in close and intimate relationships but also in “macro-relationships: social, economic and political”.

This political charity is born of a social awareness that transcends every individualistic mindset: “‘Social charity makes us love the common good’, it makes us effectively seek the good of all people, considered not only as individuals or private persons, but also in the social dimension that unites them”.  Each of us is fully a person when we are part of a people; at the same time, there are no peoples without respect for the individuality of each person. “People” and “person” are correlative terms. Nonetheless, there are attempts nowadays to reduce persons to isolated individuals easily manipulated by powers pursuing spurious interests. Good politics will seek ways of building communities at every level of social life, in order to recalibrate and reorient globalization and thus avoid its disruptive effects (Fratelli tutti 180-182).

And, no, I don’t think he’s kidding either!  


Intercessions (Peter Scagnelli)

To the Lord our God, let us pray through Jesus our high priest, who forever lives to make intercession for us.

For all who reverence the Lord, the God of our ancestors: May we diligently keep the commandments and grow in mutual respect.

For the gift of peace for our children and our children’s children: May a love based on justice multiply greatly in this and in every land.

For an end to all disputes based on religious issues and observances: May believers see that love is more important than offerings and sacrifices.

For those displaced from ancestral lands by violence and discord: May society grow in respect for the unique cultural heritage of others.

For the healing of those in spiritual or emotional distress: May compassion embrace them through those who minister in Jesus’ name.

For the right ordering of our priorities: May love of God and neighbor be the measure and meaning of our lives.

For all the dead whose lives bore witness to Jesus’ commandment of love: May they enter into the land of promise that flows with the milk and honey of eternal life.

Lord our God, you are the one God and there is no other. Give us grace to hear and heed the great commandment of your kingdom, that we may love you with all our heart and love our neighbour as ourselves. We make our prayer through Christ our Lord. Amen. (ICEL; 1998)



Sh’ma Israel Adonai eloheinu adonai echad

Hear, Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.

Lord’s Prayer

We pray for the kingdom of God to draw near as Jesus taught us....

Spiritual Communion

Lord Jesus Christ, eternal high priest, you areable to save those who approach God through you, and you live forever to make intercession for us.  We are unable today to share in the sacrifice which proclaims your death until you come again.  We ask nevertheless that we may be drawn ever more deeply into your paschal mystery and that we might bear its fruit through lives devoted to love of God and of our neighbor.  Keep us always in communion with your Body that we might be drawn ever nearer to the Kingdom of God.



Closing Hymn


Hear, O Israel, this statute:

God is one, the Lord alone!

With your heart and strength, adore him;

Let your soul his kingdom own.

Fear the Lord and keep his statutes

That you grow and prosper more;

Hear these words which I enjoin you:

Cling to God, and sin abhor.

Just as Moses taught the people,

Jesus echoed this command,

“Love the Lord!” and then joined to it,

“Love like self the one at hand!”

Hearing this, a scribe responded,

“Well said, Rabbi! You are right;

Loving God and loving neighbor

Far exceeds burnt off’rings might.”

We are given strength to do this

Through the work of our high priest,

Jesus: innocent and holy,

He, our sacrifice and peace.

Strengthened through his selfless off’ring,

We have grace to love and serve

God alone, and love our neighbor;

Thus do we God’s law observe.