November 4, 2012
Mark 12: 28b-34
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “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 than 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.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
A Sacred Paradox
This past week we have celebrated All Saints Day and the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed. Both days connect us to all those who have gone before us in faith. This “great cloud of witnesses” includes those formal saints and heroes with a capital “S,” as well as those special family and personal saints who have been our parents and mentors, our heroes and companions along life’s journey.
These days invite reflection on the funerals we attend. Amidst the tears and loss of such events we share stories and adventures of very good people who have been our family members and friends, neighbors and co-workers.
Taken all together, these stories and adventures may not reveal the heroic or extraordinary. Yet such personal reflections point up the importance of connectedness, of relationship, of the daily impact we have on one another. It is all about the love of God and care for one another that are at the heart of today’s readings.
And isn’t that the point? Wholeheartedness means that we present everything about ourselves to the God who made us—our tears and laughter, success and failure, even our dust and dross. The gift of our lives is not taken away by the Lord, rather it is transformed. In the process we are not robbed, we are revitalized as we become part of that glorious communion of the saints. With all those holy ones whom we knew in this life and are now with God, we experience the paradox that we become truly loving and genuinely human when we give away our time and talents, even our very selves.
Today’s gospel presents what down through the ages we have called the Golden Rule. Jesus gives it to us as he quotes Leviticus 19:18—“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” When the scribe who asks which commandment is the greatest showed enthusiasm and commitment for the answer Jesus offered, Jesus said to him: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Jesus speaks these same words to us as we commit our lives again today to walking in the Lord’s ways, to laying down our lives in service of one another. It is precisely in this handing over of our lives that we do what Jesus did. We become saints. We see the face of God.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Lord, we seek happiness, self-fulfillment, and success as we journey through our days. It’s easy to gradually drift away from the core thoughts and behaviors that assure a sustained joy. True success does not require grand accomplishments, popularity, or a family untouched by conflict and struggle. You offer the essence of happiness and self-fulfillment that differs from cultural messages that can exclude so many. To be great is to love you and to love our neighbor. And when the night comes and we reflect on our day, let us celebrate our “successes” and recognize where we can love more completely.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team
Please share the Good Word with your friends!