“One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: 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. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right…” …When Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Jesus said to the scribe, “You are not far from the kingdom of heaven.” Indeed, he is very close to the kingdom of heaven. In fact, it is standing right in front of him.
Jesus is the kingdom of heaven. Where God is, there is heaven. Where God is not, there is hell.
Is it possible to love God and hurt Him at the same time? Yes. Absolutely. I experience it all the time and I see it all around me. A few days ago, a couple asked me to bless their home. It turned out that the husband and wife were not husband and wife; they were actually boyfriend and girlfriend. Now, I know they love God. I saw plenty of crucifixes in their home and images of our Lady of Guadalupe. But their love for God and for each other is killing Him. Our sins crucified the Lord. Remember?
I know a lot of people who love me. They bake cakes and cookies for me all the time. So they would never imagine in a million years that think their love was actually killing me. [Just kidding, but you know what I mean.]
The scribe could not have agreed more with Jesus’ response. He even said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
It’s so nice to see that they both agreed! But did you notice how the scribe called Jesus, “teacher”?
The scribe knew the law. He knew it like the back of his hand. But he did not apply it well. For standing in front of him was God, pure love. Yes, standing in front of Him was the One and only One: God; standing in front of Him was the best neighbor in the world: the Messiah, the Savior of the World. Again, for this reason, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
Love God above all things. How can you love someone you do not know? Answer: You don’t. Instead, what ends up happening, is that you love someone you think you know. And chances are that someone ends up being you. The person you say you love but do not know will always be you or the “you” you would like that person to be. Get it?
“Whoever loves me will keep my word and my Father will love him and we will come to him.” Let’s never forget the mind boggling journey the Lord made from heaven to earth to stand in front of this man. Now, all he needed to do was to reach out and follow Him. Would he? Did he? I fear he never did since St. Mark never mentions his name.
How is it possible that someone, so familiar with the law, could not recognize the Lord? Is this a rare incident? Hardly. Unfortunately, this scribe reminds me of a home schooler. How is it possible that a child who knows his faith inside out doesn’t know God? [That is, has never experienced God?]
It takes more than just knowing the Lord to love Him. We start with the Book. But we can’t end there. If we do, we will never get near Him.
Love God above all things, especially your fears. I have never met an evil person in my life. Never. Not yet, at least. On the other hand, I have met plenty of people, almost all of them Christians, who know the Lord, say they love Him, but live in sin. Why this internal confusion? Is it a lack of knowledge or a lack of understanding? No. The problem is fear.
We sin because we are afraid. We’re afraid of never being loved, and so we settle for less. We’re afraid of people seeing our mistakes and so we lie. We’re afraid of getting hurt and so we strike first. We’re afraid of confronting the brutal truth and so we drink.
Fear is that one thing we place above God (nearly) all the time.
Yes, to love God means I must know Him. But in order to know Him, I must throw myself at Him. I must set aside my fears and place my life in Him. How? By following His commandments! It takes a leap of faith to follow the Lord’s commandments, especially the two great commandments. But only then will I experience Him as He truly is: my Lord and my God, and as an image and likeness of me and my neighbor.
Then, and only then, will I not be far from Him.