Intention: For God’s wise and guiding grace in the lives of all who are being affected by COVID-19: those afflicted with the disease, family members or friends of those afflicted, caretakers of those afflicted, and persons who are entrusted with decisions of public health and safety.
Today’s Gospel | 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.
A Lenten Reflection
Of all of the scenes found in the Gospels, one of the most powerful is that of Jesus answering a scribe’s simple question: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Sitting in the midst of persons who were anxious to know the answer, as well as persons who were convinced that they already knew the answer, Jesus gave his reply. While what he said may have sounded gentle and reassuring, his words did and still do turn people’s lives upside down.
Jesus’ response easily could have been simply to love God, an answer that would have been both correct and safe. However, he knew that there was more to the commandment, and it was a part that often went either misunderstood or neglected. And so after saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength,” he continued, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” He made clear that his answer was love God and love your neighbor. By stating it as he did, Jesus was pointing out that what sounded like two separate commandments were, in fact, one. The commandment to love God is also the commandment to love others. To do one and not the other is ultimately to fail at both.
Philosopher Eric Hoffer once mused, “It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one’s neighbor.” If there are people who prefer admiring Christ to following him, it very well could be because of his response to the scribe’s question. Discipleship demands welcoming and loving each person we meet as our neighbor, whether attractive or unappealing, comforting or unsettling, edifying or discouraging. Building the kingdom of God is not something that can be done from a distance. During Lent, we are called to reflect honestly on our commitment to living all of the first of all commandments.
Eternal Father, we are your children, yet we often do not realize what this means. Instead of being your voice, we choose to be silent. Instead of being your hands, we choose not to do your work. Forgive us for putting our own gods ahead of you. In this time of Lent, may we rekindle within ourselves the fire of faith in you and zeal for your Kingdom. We ask this of you who lives and reigns with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.