The Gospel according to Mark (12:28-34)
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and 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.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other;’ and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’, this is much more important that all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, help us in this time of study and reflection to hear the words of this Gospel as if we were there when you said them to the scribe that day. Help us to understand what you truly mean by saying this is the greatest commandment so that we can apply this to our daily lives.
Encountering Christ: As a follower of Christ, I know that I am called to love God and my brothers and sisters. However, there is one problem, me. I struggle every day to maintain the peace that God gives me. I can go from zero to sixty faster than a super sonic jet. Whether it be the person who just cut me off, a tragic event such as the killing of Aiden Leos, the six-year-old boy shot as the result of a road rage incident, or any number of situations that ignite my rage. There are countless incidents that rob me of my peace and take me to a dark place where I want to do anything but love another.
Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans (7:15) says, “What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” This is the perfect passage to help us understand the tug of war we are constantly dealing with. One minute we may be experiencing a moment of bliss, then the next we want to yell at the top of our lungs. Wait a minute. Am I alone here???
God, in His infinite wisdom did not send His son so that he could turn us into perfect beings. Jesus came to conquer sin and death. Then why aren’t we living in a Shangri la? Because God will not take away our free will. He will also not take away the gift of our unique and beautiful human nature.
I have encountered the following theology several times in my life and every time I re-engage this thinking, I find a tremendous amount of grace and peace, it is in our desire to please God that God is pleased. I wish I could remember or find where this thought comes from. And I hope I am not committing some sort of heresy. It just seems impossible to do what is right all the time. And as hard as we try, as many times as we go to confession, as many times as we fall and get up and try again our momentum toward what is good is interrupted by a choice we make that takes us in the other direction.
I have beat myself up plenty of times because of my failures and the joy of success can only last for so long. In between and in all the ups and downs is our desire to please God. If we will one day be judged by our successes and failures, then I am not sure I would look forward to meeting our maker. But if we sit down with our Father and look at our lives and see that we always wanted to please God then we will see a life filled with grace.
To love God with all our hearts, minds, souls, and strength, and our neighbor as ourselves is not accomplished by our own virtues. It is fulfilled by the desire to seek God that we grow closer to this holy ideal. To love and be loved is the result of a desire to love and be loved. And the incredible thing about this miracle is that God gives us everything we need for this to happen. He created us in his image. God is love and so are we. If we so desire.
Closing Prayer: Dear loving and merciful Lord, please help us seek what is good and pleasing to you. May our resolve to follow you, in good times and in bad, strengthen our desire to love you and our brothers and sisters with all our hearts, minds, souls.
Action for the Day: In prayer today think about how much you want to please God. Also realize that your day is not to be judged by your successes and failures but by how your hearts yearn to do what is right and good. Then let that grace lead you to a person or place that can use the mercy and love of God manifest in your desire to love.