The reading we hear today is from the first reading, which Jesus repeats in the Gospel; that we should love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is what is called The Shema. This was a prayer, the most important prayer, that the Jewish people said. The first reading stops right before this, but the following line after this is, you shall drill this into your children’s head. So, your children need to know this. You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Drill it into their heads.
I was thinking about that – drills. I know the Browns play today, and sports season is coming up. I remember when I was in grade school, we had to learn drills for football. Drills were just things you did over and over again until they became second nature. So much so that I can still do them today without even thinking. This was the shuffle. You had to keep your hands up like this, and you had to shuffle back and forth. You would do that over and over again. One of my favorite drills was where you had to turn around (like this), you put your hands like this, you would turn around, and somebody would yell, “Hike,” and someone would throw the football at the back of your head. You had to turn and catch the football (like this), so it would not hit your face. We did it so many times that it became second nature. That is what a drill is. You do it over and over and over again, so many times repeatedly that it becomes ingrained in your body. So that now, thirty years later, I can still do these drills in my body.
Jesus is giving us this drill, this prayer, The Shema, given to the people in the Old Testament. He says that this prayer that people said is so important that you need to drill it into your children’s heads.
When they prayed The Shema, the Jews would pray it in the morning whenever their children woke up. They would get down next to them in bed, and they would pray this prayer: “The Lord is God, the Lord alone and You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” They would say it throughout the day.
They used to say make it like a tattoo on your arm or a sign on your forehead. Put signs on your house, it said in the scripture. Put it everywhere so we can remember this drill, this essential thing. You should love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
So, I was thinking, “How do we make this practical?” If I were a parent, how would I do this with my child? One of the things I was watching is; because I was thinking physical, we do this with our bodies, right? We do drills with our bodies for sports. What do we do with our bodies when we pray? One of the ways people pray with their bodies is sign language. So, people that cannot speak have to use their bodies to speak out these words. So, I looked up while I was YouTubing, “How do you say The Shema in sign language?” It is pretty cool. So, I am hoping it will be a practical takeaway for all of you.
The first is that you should love the Lord, your God. Love is this (demonstrates) with all your heart (demonstrates) trace a heart over your heart; with all your soul (shows) they go like this. I was wondering why they did that. I think it is because of spirit. Spirit means spiration. So, with all your soul is like this. With all your mind, you are simply topping your head (demonstrates) like that. Then this one is pretty easy (demonstrates) with strength. If you are comfortable, I would like you to try doing this and maybe you can even do it with your children.
It starts with a simple tap on the heart; you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, soul, mind, and with all your strength.
I wonder how cool it would be for a parent to do that with a child every night before going to bed. Have them sign that motion because we are supposed to drill that into our children. As a priest, too, you are my children. I should be drilling you all the time. What is the greatest commandment? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul. Love your neighbor as yourself. The funny thing is when I ask the grade school kids, “What is the First Commandment?” Without a doubt, every single time, they will say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That is the golden rule, right, but it is not the First Commandment. The First Commandment is –Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
Drill this into your children; we should drill this into ourselves. Make this a prayer for ourselves. Could you find a way to make it a sign? Put it on your phone if you can. Put it next to your bed. Put it next to Alexa. Find a way to incorporate this into our lives, from the time we wake up in the morning to when we go to bed so that we are constantly doing this drill and reminding ourselves to love God.
One last time if you would not mind doing it along with me.
Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
There is the drill. Keep practicing it.