A Reflection on Matthew 12:28-34

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,“Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your 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.”

If you ever wanted a picture of God in love, today’s Gospel paints it! God actually pleads for us to love him. It begins with the Shema Israel, the “Hear, O Israel” where way back in ancient times, God began his love story with us little creatures. Someone asks Jesus, “What is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus’ heart must have leapt for joy at the opportunity to reveal the Heart of God. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, strength – right down to the tips of your toes. Oh!… and because all that I have created is intrinsically one with me, — you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love of God and love of neighbor. This is the great commandment. It begins first in our own heart where in quiet moments of prayer, we rest in God, in his love. And because love always begs for union, it spills out on our neighbor – in a smile, a service, in sincere forgiveness. We all know the many manifestations of love.

Then, in the Gospel, comes the man who “got it.” He sees the heart of what Jesus is saying: “Well said, Master! You’re right! To love God with our total being and our neighbor as ourselves is much more than any sacrifice we can try to come up with in order to honor you, or appease you, or win your favor.” But we don’t have to! You already love us. You’ve written that love in our DNA and nothing can erase it. It is our destiny to travel deep inside to know that love and then to bring it into the light in our love of all. Sacrifice is good. But the biggest sacrifice we can make to God is to let God’s incredible love and mercy wash over us. It’s what Lent is all about, isn’t it? Not feats of fasting or whatever else we think we need to perform to spiff up ourselves in God’s sight. Our friend in the Gospel got it. It’s all about opening our being to God and growing deeper in our relationship with a God of love. A God who pleads for us to return the love with which he surrounds and fills us.

But it’s not always easy, is it? Life has a way of dealing us some really hard blows. But it doesn’t change our spiritual DNA, does it? No matter what happens, God is there, holding us in existence in an almighty love. Affirming that all that he has made is very good. We just have to look at the crucifix to see the extent and depth of the love. And as Jesus said to the man who understood: “You are not far from the kingdom. Behold, it is in your heart and your being. Live from it through faith and in the certainty that nothing can separate you from my love. You are it’s manifestation. Will you BE for me this day?”