Teacher, You Are Right
In remodeling our home so that we will not have to climb a lot of stairs as we get older and more feeble, my partner and I are using a carpenter who is both knowledgeable and generous. She has loved getting to know us; she even dressed up and came to Rosean’s ordination last Sunday. (Rosean, who has been a deacon for 4.5 years was just ordained a priest in the Ecumenical Catholic Communion, but that’s a story for another time.)
Maria, our “handy ma’am”, as she calls herself, has connected us with several other skilled and caring people: a plumber, a roofer, an odd jobs man, a drain snaker, and compassionate restaurateurs. We are finding ourselves surrounded by a community of people who love their clients, love their work, love doing a good quality job, and love their friends. It is a blessing in so many ways. We get quality work, repairs that will last, and we don’t have to worry about people taking advantage of us. They have committed themselves to a higher standard. They derive their pleasure from a job well done rather than stockpiling riches.
In pondering the reading from Mark’s Gospel for today, I found myself asking lots of questions. What constitutes whole burnt offerings and sacrifices in today’s world, for instance? What does loving God with your entire being look and feel like? How are these two commandments woven together in such an inseparable way that Jesus spontaneously names the second when only asked for the first?
I settled on the whole-hearted response of the scribe as my guide. “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.”
This man knows what he is talking about. He has lived this love that joins God and neighbor in one run-on sentence. He knows through experience that it beats any other commitment he might make, any other dream he might have.
Loving like that is simple and ordinary. Maria and her friends are doing it every time they build something of quality for a customer. I hope that I am doing it whenever I sit down to listen to one of my spiritual companions in spiritual direction and when I put together the worship aids and communications materials that my church needs. I hope that I do it when meeting strangers at the grocery store or friends at the park. It is putting the needs of other human souls above the need to acquire wealth, status, or any of all the other things with which we occupy ourselves. And that is worshiping God, sacrificing to God, in the way that pleases God the most.
Teacher, you are right. I feel it in my heart’s wellness when I listen deeply and with love. I know it in my innermost center when I listen for God in prayer. Loving God with all that is in me and loving others as I love myself — yes — this is the Way. I hope that I will get better and better at living in this manner. Amen.