|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro
November 3rd, 2018 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 12:28B-34 NAB
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 couple of weeks into the school year, a new student of mine stopped by my room after the bell and asked, “How does a person become a saint?”. As a religion teacher, my first thought went to if she was asking about the process of being canonized, but I stopped, thinking maybe she means on a more spiritual level – like the process of detachment from the world or the three stages of the spiritual life, then I stopped again as my mind jumped to other possibilities for the source of her question until I quit guessing in my mind altogether and simply said, “Why do you ask? What is it you want to know?”
The Holy Spirit must have prompted me to ask instead of assume, because I never could have anticipated the beauty and simplicity of her answer. In all sincerity, and with a beaming sweet smile on her face, she replied “because I want to be one!” “Ah” I said, “then it’s simple, love God with all your heart.” “Really?!” she asked. “Yep,” I said, that’s it.”
God, the Blessed Trinity, is a union of 3 Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. He created human persons in His image as a union of persons in relationship of love with Him and with each other. When we love God, we can’t help but love our neighbor whom we see as God’s image on earth and our brother or sister in Christ.
The answer is simple. Jesus’ answer was simple. It was the same command God had given in Deuteronomy over a thousand years before, and the mission He had given Adam and Eve at their creation.
We are the ones who make sainthood difficult. We turn our eyes from the Beauty of God and prefer baser pleasures instead. Because of our wounded nature, we worry that obedience to God will somehow restrict our freedom and deter us from our full potential. This same self-assertion applies to our neighbor whom we view in light of our own pleasure or gain. If he or she will add happiness or pleasure, we love them. Otherwise, we tend to suspect them, like jealous siblings, worried that they will steal something from us, compete for the same resources and attention, or annoy us.
Thankfully, as we mature spiritually, we grow out of these childish concerns. We understand that our Heavenly Father sets us high upon the rock in safety (Ps 27:5) fills our cup to overflowing (Ps 23), corrects the ones He loves as a Father does for His child (Proverbs3:12), and offers true freedom (John 8:32). We also grow into a more adult relationship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord, realizing they are not a burden but a blessing. Moreover, filled with God’s love it necessarily overflows to others (cf 1 John 4:7)
Loving God means taking time for Him, in prayer and Scripture. It means learning more about Him and deepening our understanding of His self-revelation. It’s also the “simple raising of the heart and mind toward God” (CCC par. 2559) and the desires of love from deep within the soul.
As St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, put it:
|“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy”
The Christian disciple follows the example of Christ, who modelled and taught the way of Love – prayer and sacrificial works of mercy. His prayer life was so deep, His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, upon which He gave them the Our Father. His merciful actions were so numerous John states at the end of His Gospel that if everything He did was written down, the whole world could not contain it (John 21:25).
Everyone searches for the key to happiness. It’s simple, Love the Lord with all your heart:
|“Find your delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desire” (Psalm 37:4)
- Ask God for the grace to love Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love your neighbor as Christ as loved you.
- Reflect on Psalm 27:4 “One thing I ask of the LORD; this I seek: To dwell in the LORD’s house all the days of my life, To gaze on the LORD’s beauty, to visit his temple.”
- Imagine the people in your life – at work, in your neighborhood, driving on the highway, etc. – as your brother and sister. What prayer might you have for them if they were family? How might you see them more personally and with more compassion?
- Consider this passage from St. Catherine of Siena’s Dialogue which describes how our hearts can be taken up, and on fire, with love for God. It is written from the perspective of God the Father speaking to her:
| No virtue can have life in it except from charity (love), and charity is nursed and mothered by humility. You will find humility in the knowledge of yourself when you see that even your own existence comes not from yourself but from Me, for I loved you before you came into being. And in My unspeakable love for you I willed to create you anew in grace. So I washed you and made you a new creation in the blood that My only-begotten Son poured out with such burning love.
This blood gives you knowledge of the truth when knowledge of yourself leads you to shed the cloud of selfish love. There is no other way to know the truth. In so knowing Me the soul catches fire with unspeakable love…”
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- What sets your heart on fire with love for God? Do that every day this week.
- Pray one psalm a day, one chapter of a Gospel, or one chapter of Acts of the Apostles each day.
- Choose someone from your daily life and imagine them as your brother or sister. Pray for them by name and do something kind for them.
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018
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