Deacon Blog Nov. 1,2020
Two Greatest Moments in Life
A final thought on the Greatest Commandment from last Sunday. There is a certain literary process that is important in developing the perspective of Sacred Scripture as a living and contemporary presence in your life. In my homily I called it ‘context’ because it sets the stage for understanding what is happening in any given moment in time. Paul Harvey called it the “Rest of the story”. I will go as far as to say it is critical to understanding not only the message but the relevancy, sometimes, to our lives. We need to know what Jesus was doing when He said something, where He was when it happened, and who He was talking to. In that particular passage, it’s essential to know that He was in the Temple, it’s the week of Passover (and week before His Passion), there is a large crowd gathered around Him, and that He has just trashed the outer courtyard driving out the “retailers” doing business in His Father’s house. We need to know that it was a scholar of the law trying to discredit His whole existence and everything He preached. One slip, one verbal stumble, and Jesus’ credibility, and His mission, would have been over. This was within days of His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, treading on a path of palm leaves. We need this info because all of this is paramount to understanding and experiencing His Passion when it occurs. To be fully and completely grateful for His sacrifice we need to know what He went through to save us. In turn, we can move closer to understanding what “Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength” looks like in ‘living color”. In the ‘light’ of our day. In the deep recesses of our lives. It can open our eyes to recognize our neighbor and his needs. They aren’t always as obvious as a “robbed and beaten” foreign traveler. When we engage ourselves in scripture using our imagination, we can make it come alive in our hearts and minds. It is no longer random and we are no longer obtuse about its events. It connects us to the greatest story about the greatest event in human history. Like the “Good Samaritan”, we too can learn the way of Humility. Read that Gospel again (Matthew 22:34-40). If the Jews were so familiar with the ‘Shema Israel” and the greatest of commandments, why would God have placed it in the bible? If this were “settled law” for the Jews, why mention it for a Gentile world to read through the centuries?
Possibly, it’s because the “Greatest Commandment” had become too routine and the people had become too complacent about its message. This wasn’t a commandment about honoring mother and father, coveting our neighbor or their goods, or going to church on the sabbath. These are all important, don’t take that the wrong way. We must do these things, but they are part of the Greatest Commandment that sums them all up, the Law and the Prophets. Jesus placed this strategically in His ministry because avoiding apathy and responsibility is a huge problem in humanity. The next time you come to Mass, watch the way we make the sign of the cross or pray the Creed. The Jewish leaders were pushing an agenda that focused on atonement and sacrifice and the efforts of the people. They had become so burdened that just complying with the Law was the intent…not Loving GOD who had loved them (us) into existence and who had delivered them from slavery over and over. These efforts only achieved a level of compliance, not affection. GOD had become more of a ‘concept’ than a living presence. It’s obvious that this was not just a random story. It was a surgical effort to restore the health of our souls, and the divine relationship our first parents damaged.
Samuel Clements, as Mark Twain, once said “The two greatest moments in life are the day we are born…and the day we learn Why”. The Greatest Commandment provides an opportunity for this awareness. The Baltimore Catechism declared the purpose for our existence, broadly, is to “Learn, Love and to serve” GOD. The real ‘earthquake’ happened with His ‘second’ commandment, “You shall love your neighbor has yourself”, and again this was a seemingly random thing to say unless you realize that the Jews had debated this question for centuries. The Jews replied…only other Jews. Jesus’ answer…everyone we meet. Now we can rationalize that this was logical and proper in light of the persecutions and exiles of Israel, but don’t hold your breath thinking Jesus agreed. We could then extend this type of discrimination to people of a different race, economic level, gender, or education. Or the ideology of others. This was a message of loving as our heavenly Father loves…agape. Jesus was saving the best for last to wrap things up for us. In the end, He is saying, loving each other (with the same level of focus we have for ourselves) is the whole point of GOD’s relationship with us. It amounts to the only real way He is able to engage in our world and not affect free will. Sit quietly some evening, light a candle, read a line (from this Gospel), pray, and then read another line… very slowly. Seeking as much quiet as possible. Using the context I just gave you, or your own research, see if you don’t hear GOD speaking to you as if you are the only person in creation. This is what HE desires…
I would love to discuss this with anyone who has done it before, or who tries it after reading this. I promise it will change the reality of your relationship with both Sacred Scripture (His Word), and the way you experience His presence in your life. If you have ever desired this level of intimacy with your GOD, this is a great way to begin. It will clarify and answer your ‘Why”. It is the difference between ‘going through the motions’ and entering the deepest, most affectionate relationship possible. The place of emotion where the Saints dwelled. Instead of merely gazing at an ocean of possibility, you will be diving into a mystery that many do not experience in their lives… but wish they had. Whether we are aware, or not, this is the desire of our souls.
My hope here is to help you develop this kind of relationship with scripture. It can never be viewed as a work of mere literacy aimed at simple inspiration or devotion. It is a love letter written to draw us into a divine experience. If you do not see it this way now, give it a try. It is an effort, but an effort that leads to “Cielo en la tierra”. Heaven on earth. God washed away our sins and restored us to His family. That was accomplished without our help. Scripture is about us living a divine life, and experiencing Divine joy, here and now. It is what All Souls, now know.
As Forrest Gump always says… “That’s all I have to say about that”. Peace
PLEASE remember to vote YES!!!! On Proposition 115