There are many questions that go through our minds every day. We ask ourselves: “What do I do in this situation?” “Will I really make any difference?” “Does anyone really care what I do?” Our challenge as followers of Jesus is to ask the very simple question that is represented by the four letters on elastic bracelets that some people wear: WWJD (What Would Jesus Do). In the Gospel reading for the past three Sundays and today, we see people asking Jesus profound or foolish questions. Three Sunday’s ago, the rich young man asked Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus told him to share his resources with the poor. Our relationship with God involves far more than just saying prayers and avoiding the sins the commandments tell us to get beyond. Two Sundays ago two of Jesus’ apostles asked a foolish question: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.... Grant that in your glory we may sit one at your right and the other at your left.” They were looking for places of honor, power, and prestige in an earthly sense. Jesus’ response made it clear to them and us that real glory is seen in the powerful and simple things we do in love for one another, day in and day out. Last Sunday Bartimaeus, a blind man, said to Jesus, “Master, I want to see.” Not only did Bartimaeus get physical vision with his eyes, he saw the goodness and love of God and immediately followed Jesus. His spiritual vision was vibrantly clear. In today’s Gospel a scribe asks Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments? Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you 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.”
We see with far more than our eyes. That point was made so clear last week when I spoke with a man whose wife died and was going through memorabilia from their years together. He found an anniversary card that said, “I fell in love with you in a heartbeat! I have the rest of my life to tell you why!” When we are embraced by the love of others who are so good, whose very presence is life giving, we are filled with joy, humility, wonder, and gratitude. We are inspired to love them back just as intensely. That is exactly what Jesus is calling us to ponder in today’s Gospel. He is doing far more than telling us to obey the ten commandments. That is only the first step, a very basic step. The next step is to be led to love God as He loves us. Does His presence in our lives fill us with joy, humility, wonder, and gratitude? Are we inspired to love Him and our neighbor as He loves us? We don’t have one relationship with God and another with others and the rest of the world. In a previous column I quoted a meditation from a book of reflections by Henri Nouwen entitled “You Are The Beloved.” A recent reflection called “Passionately in Love with God” offered this food for thought about loving God and our neighbor: “All the great saints in history about whom I have read have been people who were so passionately in love with God that they were completely free to love other people in a deep, affective way, without any strings attached. True charity is gratuitous love, a love that gives gratuitously and receives gratuitously. It is following the first commandment that asks us to give everything we have to God and that makes the second commandment possible... We are touching on the source of much suffering in our contemporary society. We have such a need for love that we often expect from our fellow human beings something that only God can give, and then we quickly end up being angry, resentful, lustful, and sometimes even violent. As soon as the first commandment is no longer truly the first, our society moves to the edge of self-destruction.
It is almost impossible to live in a media-free way in our country. Election time is upon us. As much as all candidates are touting their accomplishments and visions for us, they are devoting as much, if not more, energy to degrading their opponents. Have our differences of opinion and visions become so ironclad that we cannot work together?
It seems that is so in our government today. Evil has infiltrated our national spirit and has put us at odds with one another. The fruit is the anger, disrespect, and vicious words we speak to one another. Sadly this has seeped into the way we deal with one another at almost every level of encounter. We do not believe what we have printed on every denomination of money: In God we trust! Trust in God opens our minds and hearts to His patience, love, mercy, gratitude, and humility. That in turn enables and inspires us to seek peace and reconciliation with one another. Key of course is embracing the basic truths given to us in the Ten Commandments. Once we substitute behaviors that are in direct opposition to our life with God and one another, we experience the atmosphere that is prevalent in our nation today. To turn away from God is to think we are smarter than God and we put ourselves on the road to chaos.
I encourage everyone who votes to prepare not just by looking at the issues or blindly following party lines, but to do two things: before you start on your way to the polls take some quiet time to say one Our Father slowly and reflectively. Then pray the Litany of Trust which is printed below. This beautiful Litany was composed by one of the Sisters of Life and focuses on the power trust in God gives to us. There are two simple responses: “Deliver me, Jesus” and “Jesus, I trust in you.”
Trust in God leads us to live the words of today’s Gospel: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is the Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all you mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”BACK TO LIST