It’s a daunting question, really. Out of the entire Old Testament – the Torah, the prophets, the psalms – out of thousands of years of God revealing himself to the people of Israel… this scribe wants to know “what is the single most important commandment?” It’s almost laughable when you step back a bit, but honestly this question is so incredibly modern I wouldn’t believe it was from the ancient world two thousand years ago if I didn’t know it was part of the Gospel. Think about it: the modern world likes information filtered down to the bare essentials. Sound bites in the news, tweets, texting… they never tell you the full story and yet we’re always relying on them to force complexity into a single statement. And notice too that the scribe wants to know the most important commandment. He doesn’t want to know the most important revelation about God or who the holiest person in Jewish history was, he wants to know the most important thing to do or not to do. Practical. So yeah, this scribe thinks a lot all of us. In fact, I know many people who have asked Jesus the same exact question without even realizing it, myself included. It’s the moment of frustration in prayer when you say, “I just want to know what to do. Whatever it is Lord, I will do it, just make it clear and obvious to me.”
So with this powerful question placed before him, how does Jesus reply? Love! Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. Love so that it consumes you. Love so that there is nothing left for you to give. The daunting question receives a daunting reply. What we would hope for – a practical and concise answer, an instruction that we can go do without thinking even – is instead a piece of wisdom that will take a lifetime to digest. Imagine forgetting every other word of scripture and still how great a challenge it would be to live just this one, single, greatest commandment! Love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, with all your strength. Let no part of your life be isolated from God. No thought, no action, no emotion, no desire that isn’t wrapped up in the real and life giving relationship we have with the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit. Every hope and every despair, every longing, every fear, every action, every inaction… all of it handed over to God in love.
So how can we live our lives this way? How do we transform ourselves to this radical height that for us is the minimum of claiming the name Christian? Honestly… we can’t. None of us as individuals and not even us as a community can live out this commandment. At least for myself, I have no hesitation in saying that I have failed to love with this level of completeness, I know that for a fact and I can’t pretend otherwise. The only one who can live this commandment is Jesus Christ. That’s why the letter to the Hebrews said that he is our high priest, the one able to save those who approach God through him, the one who was holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens. We must live out the great commandment but we can’t, not without surrendering to Christ. Let him show you what it means to have this love, and let His Spirit be the strength that carries it out in you. Ask him today, here and now, to take your heart one step deeper into the love that is God.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.