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Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)


"This is the first commandment; the second is like it."



The Word This Week


Every priest, and indeed every Catholic, can sometimes find themselves in the position of someone asking “This religion of yours – what’s it all about, really, when you come down to it? What’s the bottom line?” Our temptation might be to start going on at length, which is when we should remember this Gospel. Jesus, asked a very similar question, pins our faith down to two very simple things – love of God and love of neighbour – which together make up the foundation for everything else in our religion. The very simplicity of these two commandments is a gift, so that we can try to live them out each day of our lives. The first commandment, which is also that given by Moses in the first reading, is actually a prayer that our Jewish brothers and sisters still recite every single day.  Jesus, our perfect High Priest, gives us these two commandments to be written in our heads and our hearts, to remember each day, so that we may conduct ourselves in the paths of the Kingdom of God.


First Reading: Deuteronomy 6:2-6

While this is a very short and straightforward reading on one level, it is also immensely significant and, in a way, solemn. Notice that twice in the short reading Moses says, “Listen!”. Your responsibility as a reader is to make sure that the congregation before you this Sunday listens to these words. Make sure you take your time – let the congregation settle and be still before you even start. Proclaim these words slowly and carefully – make sure there are plenty of pauses. Save something for the last paragraph: this is the prayer known as the “Shema” which is recited by Jewish people daily: the fact that Jesus will repeat these words in the Gospel today should make you think of the significance of these words. When you read this passage, you are not simply telling a story, but making a very solemn proclamation – try it out loud beforehand to see what this means for the way you read.


Second Reading: Hebrews 7:23-28

This is a direct continuation of last week’s passage – have a look and remind yourself of it first. Having talked about the work of the high priests of Israel, the author comes to his main point – that Christ is the perfect High Priest, who does everything that the other high priests did, but in a complete, perfect and eternal way. This week the first words will ensure that people understand what is being said, so do not lose the phrase “There used to be….” Then, in your mind, make sure you understand the contrasts that the author is making. The first sentence of the second paragraph is a little tricky: it is long, so break it up in your mind – especially take a big break at the semi-colon after “above the heavens”. Then emphasise “not” – if you don’t this sentence won’t make any sense. A key phrase is “once and for all” to describe the sacrifice that Jesus, our High Priest, has made – really emphasise these words! The last sentence is really hard – it has five parts, which break up like this:           

                “The Law appoints high priests

                (who are men subject to weakness)

                but the promise (made on oath)

                (which came after the Law)

                appointed the Son

                (who is made perfect for ever.)”




Click on the link to get the Sunday Wordsearch. Feel free to copy and paste it into your parish publications.