In his book Seeking Spirituality author Ronald Rolheiser speaks about the importance of being real in our spirituality. He refers to people to making trips to Lourdes to see where the Virgin Mary might have wept or be enthralled with a person like Padre Pio who carried the wounds of Christ. He makes the point that there is nothing wrong with these things in themselves but it is not through these things that God says the most important things to us. The most important thing is not to be blind to the wounds of Christ in the faces of those in our communities or try to avoid such occasions. He goes on to tell a story of how a friend of his was playing golf with an Evangelical Christian who was always telling him he was praying God might give him a vision. One day this particular friend said to his Evangelical friend: ‘Do you want to see a vision? Get up tomorrow and see the sun rise. That’s as good as God does!’
Today in our Gospel (Mark 12:28-34) we hear Jesus approached and asked ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus’ response is unambiguous. Love of God and love of neighbor are inseparable. You cannot have one without the other. Jesus in spending time with sinners and tax collectors models what love of neighbour looks like. In going to the margins of his own society Jesus makes it clear that no one is to be avoided. Our hearts must be open to all people if our love is to be real.
This informs us what our task is as Christians. Real Christianity is not about handing out religious pamphlets or seeing how many people we can get baptized into our communities. Rather it is to radiate the compassionate love of God in our words and in our actions. Any religious devotions or practices we may wish to take on should be an extension of this and not a substitute for it. Receiving the Body of Christ at Mass is not enough if as communities if we don’t seek to act as the Body of Christ in our lives. Church is not about seeking out only those with whom we are emotionally and ideologically compatible with. It is about coming together with people who may be very different to ourselves and seeking to transcend those differences and forming communities that go beyond temperament, race, ideology, gender, language and background. By seeking to do these things we fulfil the first of all the commandments.
This is what the scribe in the Gospel understood and why Jesus told him that he was not far from the Kingdom of God. Do we understand and are we prepared to try and fulfil this commandment with all of its implications?