In today’s Gospel Story Jesus says what is known as the Great Commandment: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”, and, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”, and the Gospel Verse: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord, and my Father will love them and we will come to them”. These passages scare me, because they remind me that I am not living as he did and as he is calling me to live. I have to ask what in my daily living is contributing to the brokenness of the world?
Problems begin when I see people in my life, whether local or far away, as “other”, or different, definitely as “less”. The violence happening in Israel and Gaza, Ukraine, so many other parts of the world, countries working up towards war with each other, the violence in our own country and locally, as well as the many polarizations, show what happens when we categorize people as “other”. In the military we train our soldiers to see the enemy as “other” because then it is easier for them to do what they have to do, and this works. In the Great Commandment Jesus is tells us there really is no “other” because we all come from the same God who is creating us minute by minute as we are. The major religious traditions teach this in some way. There must be something to it. But over the years as we remake our tradition according to our own comfort, we get farther and farther away from where our tradition began — the experience of God that the founders knew.
This Gospel Story is both a reminder to me that I am far short of what Jesus is calling me to, and a call for me to work on my transformation. I make my own atmosphere where I live or work. I have a responsibility to live open to the Spirit who is with me in everything, if I care to acknowledge Her. How I conduct myself influences how other people act themselves. In any situation I can always ask, “What can I do here and now to make this situation better?”. It’s not so much about me as it is about God always involved, and my role is to be open to God being God, not an easy mater.
The Great Commandment is about relationships and transformation. As I look at the relationships in my own life, I have to face the realization that sin is anything that damages my/our wholeness and wellbeing, right relationships with family, other people, creation, etc. It is missing the mark and leads to division rather than solidarity, and makes me think that our differences are more important than what we have in common. It involves refusing to see my part in it all. As I damage the bonds of relationship I help create a broken world. This also includes my relationships with creation. A worthwhile question: am I more interested in keeping myself safe than in recognizing in others whom I fear, don’t understand or like, the same God who is in me? When I label people I do it out of a desire for my own comfort and safety. Yet anybody I so label is much more than the labels I give them. People don’t exist to make me comfortable and safe. When I look at Jesus and how he lived and calls me to live, there are no labels. On the contrary, Jesus ignored the labels that the religious system of his day imposed on people the leaders didn’t like. This means Jesus is calling me to do the same. In other words Jesus is calling me to live compassion, to treat others with compassion. How do I do that? Can I pray for the gifts of love and compassion and really mean it? It’s not at all easy, but it’s something I have to do. I have no idea other than to take his word that he will help me at least to begin moving in this direction: “Whoever loves me will keep my word, says the Lord, and my Father will love them and we will come to them”.
None of this is law in the usual sense, a matter of keeping the rules of any particular religious tradition, as important as these might, or might not, be. For some, keeping the rules of one’s tradition is more important than being open to the Spirit. Law in the Gospel sense is openness to God who is always happening in and among us, a matter of personal transformation, of doing my best to be open to the Spirit in everything without putting any limitations on how I will accept Her. If I am serious about my transformation I have to look at my reality, my daily living, as it really is, not as I wish it were or want it to be. How am I, in my every day living and choosing, contributing to the brokenness of society? I need to become aware, to notice what I notice, which is the beginning of my transformation. It is easy to dismiss my small acts of self-centeredness and selfishness as not important, but too often the choices I make show I really don’t care. As I look at my thoughts and attitude, I can see that sin, my choosing to focus on my own comfort and convenience rather than letting myself be led beyond them, distorts my relationship with God, too. Is there is something in me that I am missing? Do I want to see?
Faith is an amazing thing. Not believing the “right” things “about” God, but believing “in” God to the extent that I do all I can to be open to God being God, not always understanding what it all means, a matter of trusting God is real and somehow involved in my every situation and relationship, and freely going where this takes me. It’s worth remembering that the Spirit brings us together, while ego drives us apart. Just sayin . . .