Simply love as he loves!
As we listen to St. Paul encourage Timothy today, we hear him tell Timothy to “impart the word of truth without deviation.” This can often be a daunting task, can’t it? We think that we can form it, shape it and spin it until it becomes just what we want it to be. How St. Paul would cringe at this! Like Timothy, it is incumbent upon us to know what the word of truth is and give it to others straight up.
And to fully understand the Gospel reading today, we need to understand the society that Jesus lived in. The society of Judaism was governed by laws that were a matter of religious faith, and that obedience to the laws was considered obedience to God. Since the law was composed of 613 "precepts" or "commandments," debates arose over which one was more important. Furthermore, there were people who made it their business to know the law thoroughly and could be relied upon to give a sound interpretation. The people who schooled in the law were the scribes.
The scribes and the Pharisees prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and their ritual requirements. They made it a life-time practice to study the precepts of the Old Testament. They tested Jesus to see if he correctly understood the law as they did. Jesus startled them with his profound simplicity and mastery of the law of God and its purpose.
For once a scribe does not come with a question to "test" Jesus. Perhaps he had his suspicions about Jesus and so he came to find out for himself if Jesus was the Messiah. Most of the scribes were just trying to discredit Jesus by testing him. But this scribe seems to be seeking reassurance about his own thinking, which gives precedence to the value of love as a motivating force for all the rest of the commandments. The scribe agrees. Loving God and neighbor are more important than even temple sacrifices.
This stands in contrast to many of his fellow scribes and the Pharisees who placed great emphasis on external observance but is very much in line with Jesus' own preaching. Thus, this scribe is very fortunate to hear from Jesus: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." Now, the scribe only needs to believe that Jesus is Messiah and Lord. This is something we all want to hear. If so we should look at today's dialogue between Jesus and the scribe and ask how we fit in it.
What does God require of us? Simply that we love as he loves! God loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding grace and kindness towards us. The more we know of God's love and truth the more we love what he loves and reject what is hateful and contrary to his will. For Jesus, whoever loves his neighbor over everything else is not far from God.
I’m reminded of “The Little Way,” doing many small things with great love, taught to us by Saint Therese along with the teachings of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, who also emphasized showing love in small acts. She taught, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, and kindness in your smile.”
So, repeat the great commandments to yourself during the day. Make it a point to do one extra loving thing each day and see how people respond. And most importantly take time in prayer to come to the Lord with a sincere, open heart, to open yourself up to the Lord who is love itself. Remember, it’s Jesus who calls you to love. And he never asks you to do something without promising to help you every step of the way.
After all that is why he became incarnate—to give seeking hearts an everlasting home. Let us know the love that conquers all.