A lot is made of adolescent rites of passage and well it should be. The first day of high school, your first driver’s license, your first prom – all those events are important and significant. But what about the middle-aged rites of passage? You know, your first pair of bifocals, the first time you lose your car in the mall parking lot, and everyone’s favorite, the first colonoscopy. Those are important and significant moments of life too (unfortunately, just not as fun as the teenage ones).
As your humble blogger makes his way through the middle-aged years, I’ve experienced each of the above. And just this week, I enjoyed another rite of middle-aged passage – my first dental crown. Yep, it was a big moment. Actually, it was more than a moment, it was 1.5 hours in the dentist chair, but Dr. Piecuch did a great job. Yet it was what he said when I first broke my tooth that has me thinking now in God terms. Looking at my molar, and lamenting that he could not simply apply a filling, the good doc said this: “There’s not enough there to build around.” And I wonder, in my life as a Christian and in my relationship with God, is there “enough there” to build around?
Yesterday’s Gospel passage detailed the conversation between a scribe and Jesus. In answer to the scribe’s question about which was the greatest commandment, Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Great Commandment, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord Alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Jews in the day of Christ would pray that passage of scripture daily. It could be found at the doorposts of their home. Some even carried the passage on their bodies in phylacteries, little boxes strapped to the forehead or wrist. Jesus was crucified because his claim to be one with the Father seemingly contradicted this scripture. The Great Commandment, the very heart of the Torah, was a big deal. It was what Jews built their life around and it’s still what you and me should build our life around. But do we? Is there enough there?
Sadly, we too often place other gods before the Lord our God: sports, work, pleasure, sleep, academic achievement – and the list goes on. None of these are bad in their own right, but they can become idols. Way too often, when I invite a teen to attend a retreat or participate in a night of worship, I’m told that soccer, theater, study or some other project is taking precedence. Parents contribute to and affirm this. God is fairly low on the priority list. So when it comes to that young person’s relationship with God, there is simply not enough there to build on.
Our world cries out for authentic, self-sacrificing, zealous Christians who are all in for God and who love him with their entire heart, soul, mind and strength. I understand that I have much to improve in this regard. Maybe you do too. But if we take the Great Commandment seriously, we must be men and women of daily prayer. We must be men and women who accept what the Church teaches, particularly in regard to “controversial” topics such as the inherent evil of abortion and the sanctity of marriage between one man and one woman. We must be men and women who defend God’s interests in the public square, even if it means personal loss or suffering. Do we desire for ourselves and for our loved ones real human fulfillment, real freedom, real meaning in our lives, and real love? Then, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!”
In yesterday’s Gospel, when the scribe gave evidence that he understood well what was meant by this passage of scripture, Jesus replied with a powerful affirmation: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” Coming from our Lord, that passage is enough to take our breath away. But could he say the same to me or you? Is there enough in our relationship with God, enough to build around, that places us not far from the kingdom of God? If not, we certainly have changes to make.
Be assured of my prayers,
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