The Israelites referred to Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (“Hear, O Israel . . .”) as the Shema‛ (from the Hebrew verb for to hear). Most people recited it twice a day.  It commands the devout seeker of God to worship Yahweh with all of the heart (lēbāb), all of the soul (nepeś) and with all of the strength (me’ōd ) – a three-fold division of the human being.

     The Hebrew word for heart (lēbāb) literally refers to the inner person and so it includes both the center of emotions as well as the intellect. By New Testament times we find this word being translated so as to include both the heart and the mind (see, for example, Luke 10:27). This results in a four-fold statement of worship in the New Testament as opposed to the three-fold assertion that is found in the Hebrew Old Testament. When we sing the Hebrew Shema, Christians normally follow the New Testament’s four-fold statement found in Mark 12:30 (heart, mind, soul, strength). Notice that Matthew, written to Jewish Christians, retains the three-fold structure (Matthew 22:37 – heart, soul, mind).

     Three-fold or four-fold isn’t the issue. What is clear is that God desires us to worship Him, to ascribe value to Him, both with our emotions and with our intellectual abilities.     Too often we conclude that deep, theological thinking is only for professors, philosophers and metaphysicians—geeks, in other words. The result of that thinking is an unhealthy satisfaction with mediocrity in our spiritual depth.

     Even more often, perhaps, we avoid the strenuous work of deep theological reflection because, frankly, we are lazy. Reducing the profound and mysterious Truths revealed to us by Yahweh to a handful of trite platitudes that we can memorize on one hand sure is easy; however, it is the path of the slothful and spiritually immature.

     Tragically, probably the main reason we avoid the depths of God’s self-revelation is because to probe, question, wrestle, experiment, test, reevaluate and readjust often causes religious strife and division. Again, a few trite platitudes become Orthodoxy. Peace and unity are achieved through oppressive dogmatism. Proper vocabulary becomes more important than Truth. We avoid the depths lest we “be misunderstood” or be perceived as “having an agenda.”

    The Author of the New Testament book of Hebrews refuses to fall into this trap. In this powerful homily we are urged to put on our thinking caps, to plunge to the depths of theological truths, to reason out their profound implications and then to be transformed by the facts that we discover. And to be awestruck by what we deduce from those facts.      In short, Yahweh still wants us to worship Him with all of our MINDS.

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