All of us have a tremendous capacity to love! It is, and can be the most explosive force within our universe! Its power can build enduring vectors of relationships, which can radiate extraordinary light and warmth, which nurture the building blocks of solid and all-embracing community-life in Christ! Remember the great American actor Steve Reeve who was famous, as you know for his portrayal of Superman in the movies. However, as a result of a fall from a horse, he ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down. He said he got 100,000 letters of sympathy and support from people. This led him to ask: ‘Why does it take a tragedy before we show our appreciation for one another?’ Well that is the big question!! It is really unfortunately true!
Over the last forty years, I have presided at hundreds of Funerals. Sometimes it takes the death of a loved one to bring about Family Reconciliations. Over the years I have heard many Eulogies, and I have often asked myself the question: “I wonder if the deceased person has heard even half of what was said about them in their life time?” I don’t really have an answer to that question of mine, but I would not be too surprised if it is true to some extent.
In the ‘high tech’ times in which we live, we are surrounded by wonderful systems of communication; yet are we able to have more time for each other, love for each other, and accept each other’s differences? Again when there is a tragedy anywhere in the world, within second’s outpourings of grief and extraordinary stories appear on Face book! However, the social media can also be the vehicle for evil and blackmail, using the iPhone or Tablet as a coward’s pulpit!
So often when we go to the shops or professional services we are forced to take a number, and join the never ending queue, or hear the words on the ‘phone, ’ Your call is important to us, you have progressed in the queue’ please hold on! Unfortunately we are experiencing more than usual calls. Approximate waiting time is 45 minutes! For what? Then in frustration, you might hang up! In your mind you are saying to yourself, “all I want to do is speak to someone…not a robot”
The twofold commandment to love God, and our neighbours, which we hear from the lips of Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel, ( Mark 12:28-34) echo the very same words found in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy 6:4., and in Leviticus 19:18. Yet, this twofold commandment was almost smothered within the 613 commandments of the Jewish ‘law’!! At this point I think we need to go back to the Old Testament reading and reflect upon it very deeply.
Notice that in the pronouncement of the commandment there is Invitatory to LISTEN! Then built on this listening is a sense of urgency to implement it. The icon or image where the implications of the great commandment reside is in the heart! It seems that we could safely say that the overall icon or image displayed throughout the Scriptures is the heart! Then the total confirmation of this image is the Cross with its base deeply embedded within the heart. Let’s explore this for a few moments so that its impact can be appreciated.
In all civilizations of the world, the heart has a dominant place. Being the central organ in the body, the heart is the centre of ‘Life’; its functions enable the entire body to ‘Live’. The heart has been and still is the main symbol for ‘Love.’ That in itself is very telling….without love, nothing works! Nothing is sustained, nothing develops. A heartless person is someone who is devoid of human feelings, is hardened to the plight of the ‘suffering’ in this world, and has lost the sense of compassion. Unfortunately in our world it seems that the heartless acts perpetrated by people get the headlines, inherit the ‘breaking news’ slots in the media, and tend to dominate Thriller Novels and late night Movies. So, does that mean that hard heartedness is on the front line of human advancement? I believe that the short answer is no! The countless millions of heartfelt people far outweigh its opposite. People with big hearts, don’t go looking for publicity, people who are awash with love don’t make the headlines on digital media or Television News time. Occasionally, a short segment of true love is shown on Current Affairs Program’s as a kind of a Postscript or appendix, just to give a little reminder that the world’s people are not all bad…………..
I think that we need to dwell on the imperative given in the Old Testament Reading of today, (Deuteronomy 6:2-6) when it says: ‘LISTEN ISRAEL’ it’s more than saying, ‘Pay attention!’ It means, Children of El…Meaning children of God listen with body, mind and spirit….’holistic listening’……which is really Biblical Obedience! This is a far more positive and embracing concept of Obedience, then leaving it just with the following of Rules (well trained Dogs can do that)…or quoting Rules. So, in terms of loving, how does Biblical obedience come in to the full picture of loving? It would seem that according to the Scriptures: Listening to the truth in humility, is the precursor for us to truly love as God loves. Humility here is more like ‘poverty of spirit’ which is that constant hunger and thirst for hearing God’s Word and digesting it. It can be a very arrogant statement to say we speak the truth in love! Unless it is grounded in humility, it’s just window dressing.
Finally, in an attempt to answer the big question: ‘Why does it take a tragedy to happen before we show our appreciation for one another?’ We so often leave it too late to love, and then we are full of regrets. We wait until it is too late to tell or show others that we love them. We often leave it too late to mend a quarrel, too late to enjoy health or the gift of our children or our parents. It seems that if we are going to be on time, we need to be listening to God while our hearts are being touched, and that we in turn respond in the ‘now’ not maybe, and then the words of Jesus to the scribe in today’s Gospel are then spoken to us: ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’.