August 25, 2017
Matthew 22: 34-40
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Dear fellow pilgrims,
Rarely does the Christian life sound so simple… am I right? But, our Lord says it Himself today in the Gospel reading: “…the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
How tender are these commandments… “You shall love… You shall love…”
These commandments are not laden with things we must achieve. Jesus does not say: “You shall do… you shall accomplish…”
These commandments are not getting us to admit our place, to focus on our weaknesses. Jesus does not say: “You shall bow down to Me…”
No, Jesus, the Son, speaks on behalf of His loving Father in these commandments. He says, in a way, “If you would only realize that my Father just wants you to love Him.” No one knows the Father like the Son. Jesus knew this commandment because it was, is, at the core of His Being.
These commandments are freeing. We belong to a God who demands our all, but He does not demand what we cannot give. He does not look at us as just another worker in the field, one among many. No, He commands us to give what each of us only can give: our heart, our soul, our mind. Too often, when we think of giving “our all,” we think of that never being enough. We think of that epic sports film (or… maybe you don’t), where this team has this coach that works them to the bone, but they don’t end up winning the championship. They gave their all, but it was not enough. But our all is always enough for God; He knows, because He designed each of us to only be whole when we give wholly.
But it’s not about “being enough” with God. That's not what He wants. Even when we feel like we just want to “be enough” for someone else because we never live up to who we want to be, there is a deeper truth that we want “our all" - the greatest expression and extension of our human capacities: our heart, soul, and mind - to be recognized and received as such. Maybe we love other people and things with this “I only want to be enough” attitude because the people and things we love could never have the capacity to recognize and receive our all.
We constantly defer "our all" to "just being enough," and we are left believing a giant lie that we will "always have to settle to only being enough," disguised as keeping you safe from all of the half- and quarter- and fifth-loves we experience on a day-to-day basis. The evil one whispers that lie into our ears, "You will always have to settle... you will only ever be just 'enough'..." But God gives before He commands: "Look at my Son on the Cross, I have given you my All, my Beloved Son. I have given you all of Myself, will you not in return?"
But what does that really look like? To love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?
This is the holy ground of meeting between the Beloved and the Lover, the sought and the seeker… it is being found by God and letting Him keep you. It is being found by God in our strivings and love towards things that are not of Him, and allowing that light to rest upon the ugly places of our ingratitude without recoiling or running away in embarrassment, avoiding discomfort, or shame. It is not hiding in the bushes as He calls out still, our eyes squinting shut even as we rest in His steady gaze.
In all this… what am I saying? To love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind requires us to first acknowledge God as the supreme Lover. God, in His Fatherhood, does not expect us to love Him with our all without an example of such love. That’s why Man’s entire relationship with God, with his neighbors, and understanding of himself changed, was brought to its fullest instantiation through the life and death of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ entire life, every thought, word, action, breath, was borne out of a completely free, surrendering exchange of His All for the Father’s All. And this is why in God, there is boundless mercy. There is all for all, never keeping score, eternally giving and receiving. And this is why Jesus had the strength to give until an end of his human life, but also why this end was not the end.
“You shall love… You shall love…”, not confining commands, but a whispering chorus of truth, a testament to the heart of everything good: The all-giving Lover desires all of His Beloved.
And so, today, will we refuse? Will you refuse? Will we hide with our eyes and ears closed, like Adam and Eve? Or will we humbly give just a little more of ourselves with the faith that indeed, giving our all is refusing to believe that we could ever love enough?