Text – Mark 12:28-34:
28 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?”
29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 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.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
32 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
The religious leaders of Jesus’ time were continually trying to trap him with religious questions. On this occasion a scribe asked Jesus what the greatest law is. To which Jesus answered, “’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 strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31.
The scribe responded affirmatively. “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other…’” Mark 12:32.
Jesus was impressed with the scribe and finished the conversation with this. “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” Mark 12:34.
If you were to boil all of scripture down to its essence, it would be this. Love God and love your fellow man.” Old and New Testaments attest to this. On Advent we await the time when Love is the defining trait of God’s people. Greed, anger, malice, and other sins will no longer be present in humanity because love has eradicated them. “Thy Kingdom come, and thy will be done on earth…” is what we pray until then.
Lord of Being, Throned Afar
by Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1850
Lord of all being, throned afar,
thy glory flames from sun and star;
centre and soul of every sphere,
yet to each loving heart how near!
Sun of our life, thy quickening ray
sheds on our path the glow of day;
Star of our hope, thy softened light
cheers the long watches of the night.
Our midnight is thy smile withdrawn,
our noontide is thy gracious dawn,
our rainbow arch thy mercy’s sign;
all, save the clouds of sin, are thine.
Lord of all life, below, above,
whose light is truth, whose warmth is love,
before thy ever-blazing throne
we ask no lustre of our own.
Grant us thy truth to make us free,
and kindling hearts that burn for thee,
till all thy living altars claim
one holy light, one heavenly flame.
Our Eternal Lord, we give thanks for the way in which you have not let us go. Like “the Hound of Heaven” you have pursued us throughout the course of time to make us your own. You pursued us though we have fled from you. We now await the time when your pursuit of us will come to pass at the end of time when all of humanity will have only two loves, You and one another. In Jesus’ name I pray this. Amen.
Send a card, by mail, to someone who is not likely to receive any tangible expression of love. It could be an elderly person, a young person who needs affirmation, someone who has no social network, etc. Let them know in the letter that s/he is on your mind. You can also enclose a gift card to a coffee shop or a book shop, etc. Or you could invite them to have lunch with you.