Jesus recognized that the scribe, who asked him about which commandment was the greatest, “answered with understanding,” and then he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” (Mk 12:34). What is it that the scribe understood?
The scribe understood that God “is One and that there is no other”. God is the true source of our being, our very existence. We have been created with an innate desire to be one with him. This is the longing we all feel in the depths of our soul, this is why nothing that is finite or material will ever fully satisfy us, why we are always wanting more. This is as true for the mystic as it is for the atheist and everyone in between.
God is “One and no other” also means that we are not God, we are his created beings. God is not just one being among many, not even the supreme being. This orientation is important for we can only see from our limited perspective. What we think or believe we might need, may in fact not be a true good or benefit for us, the shimmer may be an apparent good, a distraction, a temptation, that will lead us away from the authentic fulfillment and meaning in life that we seek. God will guide us away from any unhealthy want, he will lead us away from temptation, if we are willing to seek his guidance over and above our own. God will give us what we truly need, he will lead us to that which is in reality true, good, and beautiful.
Once we come to believe that God is God and we are his created beings, then we can take the next step and surrender: “to love him with all [our] heart, with all [our] understanding, with all [our] strength”. In our surrender to God and his will we become capable of receiving his love and so are able to love him in return. We all long to be loved and to love. Experiencing the love of God helps us to unconditionally love “our neighbor as our self” because, through our surrender to his will we allow God to love others through us.
God invites us to open our minds and hearts to receive his love, to love him in return, and to love others as he has loved us. To love God then is like any other relationship, we need to spend quality time with God in stillness, to be present One on one, as well as in our everyday activities. We are to resist compartmentalizing God and instead seek his presence in everything we do. The sacrifice he seeks is that we are willing to allow him to love others through us, especially those for whom we do not have a warm and fuzzy feeling for, as this is not the unconditional love God loves with. We are to will the good of the other as they are.
Each of us are prone to sin, are wounded, and are broken. God loves us as we are, he forgives our sins, he heals our wounds, and he transforms us, if we allow him to. We need to stop running away from him and start running to him. The quickest way we can do this is to love our neighbor as our self. Going out of our self and giving to another breaks down the walls of separation we build up around ourselves because of our fears.
Jesus’ arms are wide open before us in our neighbor. May we surrender all our heart, soul, mind, and strength into his loving embrace, to receive his love and love him in return, and to embrace loving our neighbor and our self in the same way. As we do so we too will hear Jesus say to us, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Photo: Side altar of St Augustine Parish, Culver City, CA, taken last week.