Lenten Reflection, Week 4, Day 5
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."
This first commandment actually has a lot of components: hearing or listening, monotheism, loving with soul, mind, and body. It isn’t an exercise of any one component of our divided lives. What is it like to love with the soul?* This is the part where my heart flips in recognition of God. What is it like to love with the mind? Intellectual inquiry. Learning about God. Finding out how God’s ways can become my ways. What is it like to embody loving God? That would mean my actions should express God’s love. It isn’t enough to know or to feel, one must do.
The second commandment is really how we “do.” We do this action of loving God by loving our neighbors as ourselves. This also has more than one component. You must love yourself and you must love others. Both of these are huge tasks in a world full of negative messages. There is also a sub-question that can be developed from this statement. Who is our neighbor? Is my neighbor my husband and children? Yes.
Confession: I have been really cranky towards my husband this week in my stress over final papers. So I have failed this on the most fundamental level recently.
Is my neighbor the people living in my neighborhood? Yes.
Confession: I haven’t even seen a live living person this week around my neighborhood. Fail.
Is my neighbor the people living in my state? Yes.
Confession: I have not been on my congressman’s back regarding education funding and this idea to move all the earmarked ed funding into the general fund. That hurts all kinds of people. Fail.
Is my neighbor the environment? Yes.
Confession: I did not compost the cups in church Wednesday night. Fail.
I could go on. But the general argument is that my neighbor is everyone and everything. God, the divine, is integrated into every part of the cosmos. Every part of creation. That means if you fail, I fail. It also means if the polar bears are hurt, I am hurt. It seems like such a big burden. But it isn’t overwhelming because the love of God and the recognition that we are all connected sustains. Because we are forgiven our failures. Because grace goes before us and prepares the way for a new way of being in the world, in the cosmos. Because love is overwhelming and grace is abundantly abounding.
So, the big question is, what are we going to do about it? How are we going to love God with our hearts? With our minds? With our souls? How are we going to love the neighbor in ourselves? in our family? in our town? in the environment?
my neighbor, the polar bear
*It is my understanding that the Jewish concept of heart and soul is not two separate components, but one component.