first things first

Mar 12, 2021

In the 1963 novel by Australian Morris West (a popular movie in 1968) a Ukranian archbishop is elected pope. The movie is worth the two and three quarter hours of watching since it anticipates many of the issues that surface in the church and in the world in the following half century leading to the present.

There is one scene where the new pope (Kiril) feels constrained by the restrictions of the Vatican walls and disguising himself as a “normal” priest (don’t read too much into the inverted commas!) wanders the streets of Rome one evening.

A doctor asks his help to fetch a prescription for a dying man and as he gets back to the house the man dies. Kiril begins to pray a Christian prayer but the family interrupt him to explain that the man who has died is Jewish.

Immediately the pope is silent, then begins again praying in Hebrew.

The prayer he prays features in today’s gospel reading.

“One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must 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 must love your neighbour as yourself. 

When Jesus is asked by a scribe to name the greatest commandment he quotes the heart of Jewish law which forms the “Shema Yisrael” prayer from Deuteronomy 6:4 prayed by the faithful Jew every morning and evening:

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.

If you’re like me there are a dozen and more things pressing for centre space in your life. While some of these things are unhealthy compulsions and temptations, other pressures are good things and valid responsibilities. But when we make these important things (eg. family and work responsibilities) the one central thing, we suffer stress and even life’s pleasures become a burden.

A healthy and happy person is one who keeps first things first. Once again, lest we forget:

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.

An Invitation:

  • Which word or phrase in this reflection encouraged you most? Carry that word or phrase with you as an encouragement through the hours ahead.
  • Thank you to all the FFF benefactors. It is a beautiful word: “The Latin roots of benefactor are bene, which means “well,” and facere, which means “to do” — literally, “to do well.” A benefactor does well by supporting (usually financially) a person or a good cause.” If you would like to become a benefactor of FFF please visit the SUPPORTING FFF page at this link.

2 Comments

  1. A beautiful and poignant reflection on the meaning of the depth of infinite love within each one of us. +

    Te Rangimarie

    Virginia

    Reply
  2. First things first,
    Lest we forget.
    My cell ph has been out of action
    Like myself, and to read the
    Beautifull prayer,
    “To love the lord our God”
    With ALL our heart soul
    Mind and strength.
    Those FOUR words,may we
    Etch in our heart and mind

    Reply

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