Friday, April 1, 2011

“It is not enough for us to say: "I love God," but I also have to love my neighbor.”

How can you love God whom you do not see, if you do not love your neighbor whom you see, whom you touch, with whom you live? – Mother Teresa

Gospel text (Mk 12:28b-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.

As I read these passages, I could really identify with the scribe in today’s Gospel. With all the different and challenging teachings Jesus provides, the scribe wants to simplify things and discover the main guideline from which he should base his life. In a way, he is saying, “Jesus, I know all your teachings are important. But to which one should I most fully give my attention?” The scribe’s question relates quite well to our own experiences. We often want to identify the main idea of a message given to us, whether it is in a college lecture or a presentation at work. We strive to discover the ideas that should not be missed or forgotten, and the scribe’s question applies this same process to our faith lives.

Instead of just saying all of his commandments are equally important, Jesus answers the scribe by first emphasizing that God is God alone and without equal. Therefore, we should love and serve God with all of our being. Jesus shows that we are called to direct our whole lives to God, which includes our actions and choices. As a result, we should view the rest of Jesus’ teachings as helping us to love and come closer to God. Jesus then points out that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. We are called to show God’s unceasing love for all people, which enables us to more fully see God’s presence in the world.

While it may seem these commandments are too basic or simple, think about the numerous times where we have found it difficult to follow these teachings. So many things in our lives try to pull our focus away from serving God and others: greed, wealth, pride, status, and even fear. We must continually remind ourselves of the importance of these commandments, and I think this Lenten season has the ability to bring our minds back to God. Through our Lenten fasts, we are able to tell God, “I may have earthly desires, God, but nothing comes even close to my desire to love and serve you.” Therefore, when we struggle with keeping our Lenten promises, let us look to today’s Gospel and remember we are showing God that he comes first in our lives.

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