Dear Friends in Christ,
In these times I find myself often in need of a renewal of my spirit, in need of a centering of myself into the love of God once again. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the events going on in our world, by the leadership that often seems lacking, by fear of a virus that threatens to destroy physical life and the life of the country that I have perhaps taken for granted all my life. It is so easy to let feelings of frustration devolve into feelings of hatred that focus blame in all directions. I am amazed at how quickly I can slip into this pool and become mired in it.
I am reminded of the question that a lawyer ask Jesus in the Gospel of Luke, “Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And then Jesus asks him, not in so many words, but wants to know what he has learned, what he believes, what his faith life has taught him. His answer is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” It’s the right answer in order to have life.
Then he makes a jump to the last part of his answer and asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” As I think about my present feelings, I think we often jump to the end without concentrating on the first part. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind;” is really where we need to start. It’s so easy to just think OK, now what do we do? But what we do is really centered in that first commandment, loving our God. And without that there really can’t be any follow through. It is in this love that we find ourselves, but it is also without it that we can so easily lose ourselves as we are tossed about in our world.
Sometimes it feels like a juggling act to keep the love of God and of our neighbor in balance – dividing ourselves between one and the other. We get wrapped up in our world, and too often have to try hard not to forget God. Yet God should be the first priority, the one from whom all things flow. Why is it so hard to keep that straight? Sometimes it is too easy to let our own priorities, and our own feelings come first and then think of God later. Jesus point is a radical one. God wants all of our heart, all of our mind, and all of our soul. We discover who we really are in this unconditional and unreserved love for God. If I don’t get this first part straight; I end up pulled in in all directions without getting anywhere. When we get it right our activity doesn’t distract us from God or compete with our attention to God, but grows out of our love for God. It is in this love that our neighbor becomes a neighbor, not someone who threatens us or frustrates us, but someone whom we can love with a love that is freely given and free of self-interest.
May we renew ourselves in our love of God, which frees us to love.