The topic of the readings is “A good way to start the new year- with the two great commandments!” The Bible verses are from the Common English Bible.
Israel, listen! Our God is the Lord! Only the Lord ! Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your being, and all your strength. These words that I am commanding you today must always be on your minds. Recite them to your children. Talk about them when you are sitting around your house and when you are out and about, when you are lying down and when you are getting up. You must carefully follow the Lord your God’s commands along with the laws and regulations he has given you.
Darius decided to appoint one hundred twenty chief administrators throughout the kingdom, and to set over them three main officers to whom they would report so that the king wouldn’t have to be bothered with too much. One of these main officers was Daniel. Because of his extraordinary spirit, Daniel soon surpassed the other officers and the chief administrators—so much so that the king had plans to set him over the entire kingdom. As a result, the other officers and the chief administrators tried to find some problem with Daniel’s work for the kingdom. But they couldn’t find any problem or corruption at all because Daniel was trustworthy. He wasn’t guilty of any negligence or corruption. So these men said, “We won’t find any fault in Daniel, unless we can find something to use against him from his religious practice.” So these officers and chief administrators ganged together and went to the king. They said to him, “Long live King Darius! All the officers of the kingdom, the ministers, the chief administrators, the royal associates, and the governors advise the king to issue an edict and enforce a law, that for thirty days anyone who says prayers to any god or human being except you, Your Majesty, will be thrown into a pit of lions. Now, Your Majesty, issue the law and sign the document so that it cannot be changed, as per the law of Media and Persia, which cannot be annulled.” Because of this, King Darius signed the document containing the law. When Daniel learned that the document had been signed, he went to his house. Now his upper room had open windows that faced Jerusalem. Daniel knelt down, prayed, and praised his God three times that day, just like he always did. Just then these men, all ganged together, came upon Daniel praying and seeking mercy from his God. They then went and talked to the king about the law: “Your Majesty! Didn’t you sign a law, that for thirty days any person who prays to any god or human being besides you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into a pit of lions?” The king replied, “The decision is absolutely firm in accordance with the law of Media and Persia, which cannot be annulled.” So they said to the king, “One of the Judean exiles, Daniel, has ignored you, Your Majesty, as well as the law you signed. He says his prayers three times a day!” When the king heard this report, he was very unhappy. He decided to rescue Daniel and did everything he could do to save Daniel before the sun went down. But these men, all ganged together, came and said to the king, “You must realize, Your Majesty, that the law of Media and Persia, including every law and edict the king has issued, cannot be changed.” So the king gave the order, and they brought Daniel and hurled him into the pit of lions. The king said to Daniel: “Your God—the one you serve so consistently—will rescue you.” The king then went home to his palace and fasted through the night. No pleasures were brought to him, and he couldn’t sleep. At dawn, at the first sign of light, the king rose and rushed to the lions’ pit. As he approached it, he called out to Daniel, worried: “Daniel, servant of the living God! Was your God—the one you serve so consistently—able to rescue you from the lions?” Then Daniel answered the king: “Long live the king! My God sent his messenger, who shut the lions’ mouths. They haven’t touched me because I was judged innocent before my God. I haven’t done anything wrong to you either, Your Majesty.” The king was thrilled. He commanded that Daniel be brought up out of the pit, and Daniel was lifted out. Not a scratch was found on him, because he trusted in his God. Then King Darius wrote the following decree: To all the peoples, nations, and languages inhabiting the entire earth: I wish you much peace. I now issue this command: In every region of my kingdom, all people must fear and revere Daniel’s God because: He is the living God. God stands firm forever. His kingship is indestructible. God’s rule will last until the end of time.
A legal expert stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he said, “what must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus replied, “What is written in the Law? How do you interpret it?” He responded, “ You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this and you will live.” But the legal expert wanted to prove that he was right, so he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus replied, “A man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho. He encountered thieves, who stripped him naked, beat him up, and left him near death. Now it just so happened that a priest was also going down the same road. When he saw the injured man, he crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. Likewise, a Levite came by that spot, saw the injured man, and crossed over to the other side of the road and went on his way. A Samaritan, who was on a journey, came to where the man was. But when he saw him, he was moved with compassion. The Samaritan went to him and bandaged his wounds, tending them with oil and wine. Then he placed the wounded man on his own donkey, took him to an inn, and took care of him. The next day, he took two full days’ worth of wages and gave them to the innkeeper. He said, ‘Take care of him, and when I return, I will pay you back for any additional costs.’ What do you think? Which one of these three was a neighbor to the man who encountered thieves?” Then the legal expert said, “The one who demonstrated mercy toward him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
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The following are correlative passages from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy.
We should examine ourselves and learn what is the affection and purpose of the heart, for in this way only can we learn what we honestly are. If a friend informs us of a fault, do we listen patiently to the rebuke and credit what is said? Do we not rather give thanks that we are “not as other men”? During many years the author has been most grateful for merited rebuke. The wrong lies in unmerited censure, — in the falsehood which does no one any good.
The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions: Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer? If selfishness has given place to kindness, we shall regard our neighbor unselfishly, and bless them that curse us; but we shall never meet this great duty simply by asking that it may be done. There is a cross to be taken up before we can enjoy the fruition of our hope and faith.
Dost thou “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”? This command includes much, even the surrender of all merely material sensation, affection, and worship. This is the El Dorado of Christianity. It involves the Science of Life, and recognizes only the divine control of Spirit, in which Soul is our master, and material sense and human will have no place.
What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds. To keep the commandments of our Master and follow his example, is our proper debt to him and the only worthy evidence of our gratitude for all that he has done. Outward worship is not of itself sufficient to express loyal and heartfelt gratitude, since he has said: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer. Its motives are made manifest in the blessings they bring, — blessings which, even if not acknowledged in audible words, attest our worthiness to be partakers of Love.
Simply asking that we may love God will never make us love Him; but the longing to be better and holier, expressed in daily watchfulness and in striving to assimilate more of the divine character, will mould and fashion us anew, until we awake in His likeness.
Jesus taught the way of Life by demonstration, that we may understand how this divine Principle heals the sick, casts out error, and triumphs over death. Jesus presented the ideal of God better than could any man whose origin was less spiritual. By his obedience to God, he demonstrated more spiritually than all others the Principle of being. Hence the force of his admonition, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Though demonstrating his control over sin and disease, the great Teacher by no means relieved others from giving the requisite proofs of their own piety. He worked for their guidance, that they might demonstrate this power as he did and understand its divine Principle. Implicit faith in the Teacher and all the emotional love we can bestow on him, will never alone make us imitators of him. We must go and do likewise, else we are not improving the great blessings which our Master worked and suffered to bestow upon us.
Question. — What are the demands of the Science of Soul?
Answer. — The first demand of this Science is, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This me is Spirit. Therefore the command means this: Thou shalt have no intelligence, no life, no substance, no truth, no love, but that which is spiritual. The second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” It should be thoroughly understood that all men have one Mind, one God and Father, one Life, Truth, and Love. Mankind will become perfect in proportion as this fact becomes apparent, war will cease and the true brotherhood of man will be established. Having no other gods, turning to no other but the one perfect Mind to guide him, man is the likeness of God, pure and eternal, having that Mind which was also in Christ.
Jesus urged the commandment, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me,” which may be rendered: Thou shalt have no belief of Life as mortal; thou shalt not know evil, for there is one Life, — even God, good.
When the divine precepts are understood, they unfold the foundation of fellowship, in which one mind is not at war with another, but all have one Spirit, God, one intelligent source, in accordance with the Scriptural command: “Let this Mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” Man and his Maker are correlated in divine Science, and real consciousness is cognizant only of the things of God.
Every day makes its demands upon us for higher proofs rather than professions of Christian power. These proofs consist solely in the destruction of sin, sickness, and death by the power of Spirit, as Jesus destroyed them. This is an element of progress, and progress is the law of God, whose law demands of us only what we can certainly fulfil.