Ordinary Time - Week 31b

The First Commandment

(From Conversation with God, Fernandez Carvajal)

The texts of today's Mass show us the continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament, as well as the perfection of divine Revelation. In the First Reading we hear the First Commandment stated in no uncertain terms: Listen, Israel: The Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. This passage was well known to all the Jews. They repeated it twice each day, in their morning and evening prayers.

In the Gospel we read of a scribe's encounter with the Lord. He had been listening to the dialogue between Jesus and the Sadducees. The scribe was impressed by the Lord's response to their questions. He was moved to inquire personally into the teaching of the Master. Which is the first of all the commandments? He asked. Jesus paused to give time to this apparently sincere individual, even though He had spoken so harshly of the scribes and the Pharisees in general. At the close of their conversation Jesus has some words of encouragement for the scribe: You are not far from the kingdom of God. Jesus is always ready to spend time with souls who express an interest in him. The Lord repeats those words from Holy Scripture: Listen, Israel: The Lord our God is the one Lord.

This is the first of all the commandments. It is the summation and culmination of all the others. But what is the meaning of this love that is insisted on? Cardinal Luciani - later Pope John Paul I - wrote the following definition in an imaginary letter to St Francis de Sales: "According to you, the man who loves God must board the ship of God, determined to accept the course set by his commandments, by the guidance of those who represent Him, and by the situations and circumstances of life that He permits. You imagined an interview with Marguerite, when she was about to embark for the Crusades with her husband St Louis IX, King of France: 'Where are you going Madame?' 'Where the King goes.' 'But do you know exactly where the King is going?' 'He has told me in a general way. I am not concerned to know precisely where he is going however: I care only about going with him." That king is God, and we are all Marguerites if we really love God.

To feel, with God; like a child in its mother's arms; whether He carries us in his right arm or in his left arm is all the same: we leave it up to him. This is the only thing that matters: to be with Jesus. The place where we are, the pain that we may suffer, our success or our failure - these must be accepted as having only a relative importance. If anything, our circumstances should help us to love God more. We would do well to follow the poetic counsel of St Teresa: "Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing dismay thee: all things pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for. He who has God finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices."