The Gospel according to Mark (Mark 12:28-34)
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: 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. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Opening Prayer: My Jesus, I love you above all things and want to love others as you have loved me. Open my heart to hear your word and let it penetrate the good soil there, take root, and bear fruit that will last, which is love alone.
Encountering Christ: I think the first question we need to ask ourselves is: Who or what do we love the most?
We are summoned by God the Father and commissioned by Jesus to practice love in all its forms. We are called to continue to love much deeper – especially in this Lenten Journey.
When we look at how Jesus lays out the commands to love the Father and then our neighbors it may seem elementary, but we all know how hard that really is. Do we REALLY love our neighbors like we love ourselves?? Let’s face it – probably not! We might say that is the case, but we normally favor ourselves over our neighbor – or even other family members for that matter.
You say “not so!” ….. well then let’s ask the question…. Do you take as much time in the morning visiting with your neighbor as you do getting ready each day? Do you greet your neighbors each day when you see them? Oh!…. How about that neighbor you don’t care for… you know, the one who annoys you and you wish would move away from the neighborhood??? That person OR persons are the very ones that Jesus speaks most about today in the gospel. Jesus tells us that God is the greatest of all and deserving of every ounce of love we can muster up. But he also says that we are challenged to love everyone else just like we love ourselves. Easy to say – hard to do!
So maybe this Lent we are suppose to really reflect on how we can better love others, which in turn will teach us how to better love ourselves. Example in point, think about how good you feel when you do something unexpected for someone else. It’s a natural feeling of warmth and goodness and one that we often tend to just glass over when it happens.
The scribes asked Jesus what was most important in life and he validated with his words, what the scribes already knew! Love is the key to the kingdom.
Take this opportunity to reflect on how important love really is – not only to you BUT to GOD! When we discern the true meaning of love then we can receive the affirmation from Jesus and his Father that we are not far from the Kingdom! If we understand pure love and its application in our world around us, then we will find that our lives will have more meaning and purpose. After all we ARE the children of God – AND we are made in His image and likeness! SO we are the ambassadors of love manifested in the world.
Closing Prayer: Jesus, I know that I can still grow in many areas of my life. I can be impatient, unkind, rude, self-centered, and ill-tempered at times. Increase the love and mercy in my heart and conform me to your image. May I die to myself and my preferences so that it is no longer I who lives, but you who lives in me.
Action for the Day: Watch the video below. Reflect on how you relate to one or more of the meanings of love. THEN… think about how you can share that love with someone else – not necessarily a close family member. That is too easy! We are called to stretch ourselves. Reach down deep in our heart and soul and think of some way to bring love to someone OR to some place in need today. Then – go spread that love and joy in your heart!