Friday of the Third Week
Father, as day breaks, open my heart to those who I will meet today so that they may glimpse in me the heart of your Son. Philip Harrison SJ
Entering into prayer
A place for prayer: Recall a place where you feel at peace . . . imagine it if you can . . . or in some way get a sense of it. . . what do you notice about it . . . let the Holy Spirit be there with you . . . in the breeze or the air you breathe . . .
Today's Scripture (Mark 12: 28-34)
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’. And after that no one dared to question him any more.
Food for thought
In today’s Gospel we witness an unexpected encounter between Jesus and a scribe – a man expert in all the traditional complexities of Jewish Law. These two very different teachers face one other. Do we expect their conversation to be hostile? If so, we might by surprised by the level of mutual respect. The scribe wants Jesus’s opinion on a really burning question. Of the hundreds of commandments to be obeyed, which is the greatest? Jesus seems to hear a deeper searching behind this enquiry, and his answer leads this learned man to much greater understanding.
The first commandment (the Shema Yisrael, still prayed daily by orthodox Jews) is that we love God as our one and only Lord, with every fibre of our being, says Jesus. And it is paired with a second – that we try to love others in the way we’d like to be loved ourselves.
The scribe now begins to see: it is not the details of Temple rituals and sacrifices that matter, but loving. And Jesus encourages him warmly, for however outwardly different this man may seem from the disciples, Jesus knows his heart is very close to God.
Suggestions for Prayer
I take time to read this short passage slowly, reverently. Perhaps I imagine myself present in the Temple as this conversation between two respected leaders takes place … the learned scribe questioning the young itinerant preacher. I look from one face to the other, noticing their expressions; what passes between them; the different nuances in their speech. What has drawn this man to Jesus? What is it that draws me?
Jesus has no difficulty cutting through the raft of legal complexity to the real essentials of being a disciple. It’s all about trying to love in the way that Jesus loves. I ponder this bedrock of our life with Christ Jesus.
Perhaps I think of times when I haven’t found it easy to love God single-mindedly, or I’ve been more concerned with legalities or details. I speak to the Lord of this from my heart, remembering that love is God’s gift to me; it is not my own work. Now I hear Jesus speaking about loving my neighbour as myself.
Who in my own life has helped me to experience and learn about love, or led me to know that I am loved? Gratefully, I bring them to the Lord. Who are my neighbours, including people who may seem ‘different’ from me, or hold very different views? I ponder what it means to love them. I ask the Lord to help me see his own face in all those around me.
As I draw my prayer to a close, I give thanks anew for God’s great gift of love, and ask for the grace to respond to his invitation to love ever more deeply and generously this Lent.
How are you going to respond today?
Today I might learn from the scribe by trying to come to any conversation I have, including unexpected ones, with openness and generosity. I ask to be particularly aware of God’s presence, and that God might deepen the gift of his love within me and all those I encounter today.
Image for the day
- How do you feel about the idea of loving your neighbour?
- What helps you follow this commandment?
- What if anything hinders you from loving your neighbour? Talk to Jesus about that.
Examen (review of prayer)
Let God look at you with love. What are you doing for Lent this year? How is that working out? What’s going well? And less well? What do you need from God to help you? Talk with God about your Lent. Be still in God’s gaze again.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen. Stephen Hoyland