Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time – MK 12:28B-34
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” MK 12:34
True Prayer One
Two deacons were having a conversation about prayer and the difficulty of staying present and silent in prayer.
Deacon One, “It’s not easy”.
Deacon Two, “Sure it is! I do it all the time.”
Deacon One, “OK. I will make a reward for you. I will give you my prize horse if you can be present and silent for one hour in prayer.”
Deacon Two, “You got it”.
Deacon Two goes into prayer, settling in, closing his eyes and begins. Silently he sits, silently he prays, ever so silently.
Deacon Two, “Does that include the saddle?”
True Prayer Two
A young Brother at the monastery approaches the Abbot with a question.
Brother, “Abbot, is it right to eat while I pray?”
Abbot, “No! Absolutely not right. That is a terrible thing to do.”
Later in the week…
Brother, “Abbot, is it right to pray while I am eating?”
Abbot, “Yes, this is most virtuous.”
The Lord is One
In today’s gospel reading we encounter the single yet impossible goal… You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
Impossible yet absolutely necessary and good! How then is it possible? If we cannot settle in for one hour of prayer without regressing to ‘what is in it for me’, how is it possible to reach such degrees of quiet and attentiveness to the Lord? Jesus reassures us, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” MK 10:27. It is the Divine Presence that calls us to himself – to aspire to this degree of intimacy with the Lord — and it is the Divine Presence that makes it possible for us to respond with intimacy. Said another way, it is the inspiration of God that makes the desire and provisions the pathway. We enter into the way…. without the horse.
The second commandment is a little less impossible… The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
How can I say such a thing? How can it be that the 2nd commandment is a predicate to the 1st commandment unless I reengage Jesus’ response to the scribe.
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
Burnt Offerings and Sacrifices
Our burnt offerings (prayer) and sacrifices (Eucharistic practice) are virtuous but are lacking without the binding commandment to love neighbor as yourself. The challenge here is to read the commandment in both directions. Usually we read this way — Love God entirely by way of burnt offering and sacrifices then you can love neighbor as self. Jesus prefers the opposite, love neighbor as yourself then bring your gifts so as to be receptive to the Divine Presence.
Have you not read: Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you, leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. MT 5:23-24.
Love Neighbor and Self
How and what do we love about ourselves? Well, some are often unhappy about their person for different reasons. But we can say that for most all we love ourselves by taking care of the body, emotions and spirit. Do you not eat? Do you not see a doctor when sick? Are you not attentive to what you think and how you feel and what is the natural good for you?
Seek those things for neighbor.
You see most times we eat while we pray. We need to learn to pray while we eat.
The oneness of the Lord includes without separation love neighbor as yourself.
Vote with your conscience. Vote with an informed conscience.
Is our own eating the priority and our primary focus? Is this not the dead faith James speaks of (Jam 2:14)?
Is political dogma and thoughts of moral right kept on a higher value than the person? Do you not understand Jesus statement “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath”
The gospel reading today ends with a moment of decision. The scribe having correctly answered with understanding that love of neighbor is an intrinsic part of loving God, Jesus says in reply: “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Time to Vote
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
There is nothing left to ask.
Know the difference between prayer and prayer with the reward of a horse and saddle.
Know the difference between eating and praying.
Now, press the lever.
Peace be with you,