Today’s Gospel has a scribe asking Jesus which commandment is first of all. Jesus responds:
“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.”
This is actually the best known Jewish prayer. We are reminded in reading this passage from Mark that Jesus was born of a young Jewish mother, Mary. He knew the Hebrew Scriptures well. We can only imagine that Mary herself would have taught Jesus these commandments–and in actuality, she was telling the face of God to love God. There is a certain irony in this. Our beloved Mother had no idea the extent to which she was raising up a Godly Son.
The idea that God is right in front of us, in our neighbour, in our families, in our communities, in the church pew, and in the least of these, is not new. The Incarnate One became human for us so that we would not be far from the Kingdom of God ever. God is in all things. Psalm 81 says that when we are in distress, God will respond to us. Sometimes God will answer the prayer of someone through us–we love our neighbour and relieve their shoulders from the burdens they struggle to carry.
We often forget to embrace the second commandment of loving ourselves equally to our neighbour. God can use us to answer prayers but sometimes we need to be ministered to. Some days, we need to show mercy not only to others, but to ourselves as well. We need to draw our boundaries in healthy ways. I have been learning to do that this past year in my illness. I have accepted help when it has been offered, drawn a line in the sand when I have needed space, and withdrawn to a quiet space when my soul required rest.
I have loved the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength without wavering. My Beloved has been patient with me and I am ever grateful for the graces bestowed on me. My heart is God’s. When someone said to me prior to knowing that my cancer was back that I should praise God every day for my healing, my response was that I should praise God every day period. Full stop. No conditions apply. I simply should praise God. I should love God with my whole heart, not just half a heart that sulks because life did not turn out the way I wanted or half a mind that wants to walk away from the relationship because I want something different. No. The Hebrew Scriptures are clear and laid out again in the Christian Gospel: God requires loving with every ounce of your being. Love God, your neighbour, and your very self. This is no easy task but for thousands of years it has been taught. There must be some Truth in these words. If we learn how important these beliefs are, then we too will not be far from the Kingdom.
What role do you think Mary had in developing Christ’s love of God?
Which of these two commandments is most challenging for you?
Face of God teach us how to love you more, in word and deed. Show us how to love our neighbours and ourselves. May we strive for the Kingdom of God and recognize you along the way. Banish my half-heartedness, a mind that wanders, a spirit that is weak. Give me only a desire to love you entirely and always. Amen.