Are you familiar with Jesus’ teaching of the “great commandment”: to love God “with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength,” and to “love your neighbor as yourself”? Br. Jonathan Maury hears in these familiar words not an imperative, but an invitation; not something we need to achieve, but something we are called to receive.
Transcript: Shortly after I left college, I returned to my home parish and was invited almost immediately to become a catechist. Now a catechist is one who teaches, baptizes, and nurtures new Christians, at least preparing them for holy baptism, but also nurturing in the faith as a follow-up.
The first rite in the catechumenate, this ancient process for preparation for Baptism, involves the admitting of the catechumen. And it begins with a simple question, “What do you seek?” The response is “Life in Christ.” And to underscore what this life in Christ is about, it is immediately followed by the great commandment, what we know as the summary of the law in the version that comes from Chapter 12 of Mark’s gospel. Jesus says, “Hear oh Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength.” Jesus immediately adds a second commandment, which is like the first, and this one from the Book of Leviticus. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Now I think we’re often faced perhaps with the sense that this great commandment is an imperative, you know, “You shall. You shall. You must, by pulling yourself up by the bootstraps, working, achieve this way of being, and if you don’t, you’ve failed somehow to be a recipient of God’s grace and love.” But I think this is contrary completely to what Jesus was saying. Jesus was speaking of a loving response of God saying to us, “This is my purpose for you. This is my loving intention for you that you may come to love in a mutual relationship me in my fullness. Come to know how you are loved by me and thereby be able to love others.” There is that loving of others that is the teaching, baptizing, and nurturing that we speak about in this mark of love.
So we don’t have an imperative anymore, we have instead an invitation to mutual relationship, to fullness of life, to being taught ourselves by God, and being able to impart the good news of that love of out to us for others that they be nurtured and taught themselves.
How have you experienced God’s love, and how does that experience inform how you love others?
– Br. Jonathan Maury
Question: How have you experienced God’s love? How does that experience inform how you love others?
This activity invites you to explore the Baptismal Covenant in prayer and reflection during your day and throughout the week. Each morning, write a short prayer based on that day’s question from the Baptismal Covenant. Each evening, reflect on how you are living into this aspect of your faith.