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
Several months ago a very good friend of mine asked me to be his sponsor on his journey through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA). I was flattered, humbled and excited…all at the same time. Little did I appreciate that he would turn out to be my sponsor on a journey of personal renewal: renewal by looking at my faith through the lens of someone who did not grown up with the traditional Baltimore Catechism answers. Who wanted to ask the questions of faith and the Church that I accepted as “that’s what I grew up with.”
Together my RCIA friend and I would read the next Sunday’s gospel each Monday night for close to seven months, and then discuss its personal meaning. Several powerful spiritual exchanges followed. One evening the conversation took us to Mark’s Gospel and the question put to Jesus about “which is the first of the Commandments.” I am no theologian or Scripture scholar, but I found myself trying to answer that question in a personal letter I wrote to him during our retreat on Holy Saturday. To paraphrase what I wrote: The Lord loves you as you are. Like the way you love your wife and son. Unconditionally. He wants to be a part of your lives. Let him in and keep him close. Even when we fail, God is there…waiting for us. Put him first. If we try to keep him close, then treating others the way we want to be treated will surely follow.
—Bill Burke serves as a Regional Director in the Advancement office of the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin provinces of the Society of Jesus. Bill and his wife, Colleen, have two daughters.
Lord, when we feel rushed, overwhelmed by all the commitments, slow us down. Let your Spirit remind us to keep perspective. If we but take a few minutes to be in your presence, to speak from our heart and wait on you, we will be centered and fortified to better serve others. We thank you for those in our day who will refresh us and help us to be more content, more joyful, and more giving.—The Jesuit Prayer Team Please share the Good Word with your friends!