Sacrifices and burnt offerings are no longer part of our worship in today’s world. But we have plenty of practices that we perform out of duty, simply because it is necessary to do so to survive or because they are part of the mores of our society.
The love of God is something else entirely. It is an inner orientation toward transformative understanding. Being devoted to God entirely and passionately, with hearts, minds and strength, turns our worlds upside down.
The love of God is a practice. We have to intentionally engage in learning about who God is and who we are in relationship with God. It’s not knowledge that can come off a website or be found in a book. Instead, we pray, and we listen for God’s own response to our prayers. We act out of our understanding. The world responds and God responds. We evaluate these responses with the openness to input that is true humility. And then we change how we act accordingly.
Love is not an emotion; it is an intentional commitment. If we are to love God and love our neighbor, we have to open ourselves completely in service to them. But, while love is humble, it is not self-denying. It turns out that we are made for this kind of service, and doing it well allows all our gifts to flower.
‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbor as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices,’ says the scribe in today’s reading from the Gospel of Mark. Neither duty nor a statement of belief holds even a dim candle to the practice of love. We must practice love, a love that builds us up even as it empowers the other person, a love that gives God room to speak and to in-form us. And when we do this we come close to the kingdom of God.
Laurie Gudim is a writer, religious iconographer, and spiritual director living in Ft. Collins, CO. To get to know her a little better visit everydaymysteries.com.