31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mark 12:28b-34
When we hear the familiar words of Moses in the first reading, and then Jesus quoting Moses again in the Gospel: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul…mind…strength…you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” maybe we think – with our American consumerist mind – that we need to do something more to fulfill this command. More is always better, right? But doing more for God or neighbor is not everyone’s first priority, even among church folk. “I come to church, you’re telling me I need to do more?”
Or maybe, when we hear this commandment, we also hear it in the voice of a football coach, a motivational speaker, a politician or an actor in an energy drink commercial, and we’ve grown a little cynical and tired of people telling us to give 110% all the time. The rah-rah stuff gets old.
Well, take heart. Approaching the Gospel from the perspective of the great St. Augustine may be helpful. In his famous Confessions, he once wrote: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
“You have made us for yourself.” We were made, created, wired – for God. Nothing “more” is needed. What happens is that our hearts get restless, wayward and distracted away from our divine GPS always pointing us home.
So what is needed is harmony, clarity, focus. And the wisdom and tools for living wholeheartedly for God often comes from our monastic tradition. The monastic mothers and fathers seek to radically live out the fruits of love of God and neighbor, and through the centuries they return time and time again to the same themes:
-Prayer and Charity
Deepening our humility, awareness, prayer and charity, even little by little, will correspondingly align our hearts in the way God desires. And yes, soon we will begin to experience a glimpse of what Jesus promises at the end of today’s Gospel: “You are not far from the reign of God.”