Not Far

The scribe said to Jesus, "You are right, teacher, in saying, ‘You shall love Him (God) 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.”

Mark 12:28-34

October 29, 2021, Words By: Sue Hudacek, Image By: Blakely Dadson

Made Flesh

In our reading for today, we encounter an interesting dialogue. A scribe asks Jesus which single commandment is the most important. But Jesus responds by naming two commandments. The scribe, in an act of public approval, affirms Jesus’ response by essentially repeating it. All of this led Jesus to look positively on the scribe and tell him he was “not far” from the kingdom of God. 

I’m fascinated by this entire exchange. “Not far” means the scribe is near, and possibly still on the way, but hasn’t quite arrived. I know for me “not far” is not close enough. Somehow, relating to Jesus and knowing the right answers didn’t quite do it. So what are we to take from this exchange? If we listen closely, I believe we can hear an invitation to reside inside the very heart of God. 

“To love the Lord, our God with all our heart and all our soul, with all our mind and all our strength.”
Isn’t this the very essence of life? The reason Jesus came to be among us? So he could show the world God’s love for all humanity? To be a witness to the love he had for God and all of creation? A witness to the love that resides in the trinity?

This commandment teaches that it is not enough just to know about God. Philosophy and theology are beautiful and necessary, but here God is calling us into an intimacy with our Creator, the one who loves us beyond all measure. From this intimate encounter with God we are invited into the second commandment. 

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The love of God is not only a mystical experience in our individual lives, it’s meant to make a real difference in the lives of others.

And yet, the measuring stick for my love of others is connected with how well I love myself. There’s the rub! Do I love myself? Truly love myself as God loves me? 

To be honest, at times I even wonder if I like myself…let alone love myself.  

For years, I struggled to believe I could be loved. That I was worthy. That I was good enough. Smart enough. Pretty enough. I remember my spiritual director asking me where this wound came from. I answered immediately without thinking. I was carrying a wound of another, someone in my family who had been abandoned at a young age. This wound had shaped my entire life.

Once I realized this, I prayed and prayed, and I still found myself enmeshed in this struggle. Then, on a retreat with a Carmelite nun, Sr. Ruth Burrows, she simply said, “You are not what you feel.” I resounded with a loud, “YES!” When I felt unworthy, that was not who I was. When I felt unlovable, that was not who I was. 

Then she asked this question, “Do you believe you are called to the fullness of life?” I imagined so, but decided I would ask God. And I did ask…over and over again. The following morning, I felt as if I was bouncing off the walls, my heart was filled with knowing that I was beloved! This was the fullness of life!

A month ago, Ricky, a man with an intellectual disability (who works for Street Psalms and a member of our L’Arche Tahoma Hope Community) led our prayer before dinner in his home. “Thank you God, for me! I like me! I love me!” Of course, he then giggled! What a prayer! He is my teacher. He understood the fullness of life in God! I needed to make this prayer my own!

Yet, we cannot stay here. There is much more than the feelings and joy this knowledge brings. As we begin to grasp God’s love for us, we are propelled outward, toward others.  

The act of loving my neighbor is the act of loving and meeting God all the time and everywhere. As Ruth Burrows said, “There is no meaning to our human existence but this.”

In this year of pandemic, we have been inundated by news of immense suffering, violence and destruction. I believe God has used this pandemic to get our attention, to open our eyes, our ears and our hearts to hear our neighbors’ cry, to hear creation and our earth crying out. So, just like the scribe who was invited to put his ideas into practice, if we truly love God and ourselves we will be lured into active generous love for ‘the neighbor’ who waits for us.

In Ruth Burrows’ words “The more earnestly we want to surrender to God, the more determinedly we must work to love our neighbor.” The words “not far” will never be enough. Let us immerse ourselves in God’s love for us, and allow that love to transform us into people who love our neighbors in the same way. That is the fullness of life. 

Dwelling Among Us

How do you respond when you hear Jesus’ words “You are not far from the Kingdom of God?”

Do you hear the invitation to reside inside the heart of God?

Where are you being led today to love your neighbor? 

About The Author

Sue Hudacek