– Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent –
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ [Mark 12:28-31]
We must resist the temptation to keep God at a distance and to behave as if our relationship with God exists only on the ‘spiritual’ level. Faith is more than what you happen to believe. Jesus addresses our tendency to spiritualise our relationship with God throughout the gospels, including in today’s reading.
The Christian perspective on loving God above all else locates the evidence for love of God in our love for one another. Jesus takes the love of God out of the clouds and places it squarely in our real, day-to-day lives.
This should not be a surprise to us. That God took on humanity in Jesus changes how Catholics relate to the world, their experience, one another and their own bodies. The dualism that plagues spirituality, where the spiritual is seen to be divorced from and superior to the physical, has no place in authentic Catholic spirituality. Instead of being a rarefied experience, Catholic spirituality is at its clearest and best when every person, every sunset, every created thing is recognised as a manifestation of the One who has called everything into being.
The seven sacraments we are familiar with have relevance in a spirituality that recognises God at work around us, as a continuing presence that nurtures an experience of conversion and freedom, growth and transformation. A decline in an appreciation of the sacraments of the Church may equate to a lack of awareness of God in our experience of everyday life.
By Shane Dwyer