In sports, when a team begins to fail, the coach announces that they are getting back to basics and will work on the fundamentals of the game. Same things happens with corporations as CEOs declare that they are going to hone in on their core mission. Also true of Churches. When Pope John 23 announced the Second Vatican Council, he essentially stated that the Church was going to modernize… by going back to its roots.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus gets back to basics.
Have you ever been asked a question that had one answer, but you thought about it and realized that there was more than one right answer?
That is what happens in today’s Gospel when Jesus is asked which is the first and most important of all of the commandments. Jesus said that the most important one was to: “… love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Then he said, wait… there is one more thing: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Uhm, Jesus… that’s two answers.
When the scribe repeated back what he had heard, Jesus told him: “You are not far from the kingdom of God” and then “no one dared to ask him any more questions.” In other words… mic drop. The scribe nailed it.
Love God. Love others.
There is a connectedness to those two ideas that became the hallmark of Jesus’ message and ministry. A constant theme: Love God. Love others. Consider this to be the fundamentals, the mission, the roots. Consider this as getting back to basics.
This connectedness is actually more than simply a repeated theme of his, however. It is essential theology. It is a key clue into the meaning of our existence and the reason for it. And it is a key insight into our path forward.
Love God. Love others. God is divinity. All of us are humanity. We are the created gift of a divine God. Normally you would think of this as a subordinate relationship. There is the greater, then there is the lesser. There is the master, then there is the servant. There is the overlord, then there is the underling.
But in the single greatest act of love of all time, the greater, the master, the overlord… sent a son to come and to turn things upside down, to preach of this interconnectedness between divinity and humanity. The son himself was divinity and humanity. And he constantly taught that greatness comes from service… for he himself came to serve, not be served.
Jesus gave the scribe two answers in today’s Gospel because the two answers are completely bound together.
What does that mean for us?
I’ve been thinking about that. I’ve been praying about that.
I believe that it means our best way forward is to keep both of these commandments together, up front, guiding our lives and connected. The best way to reflect our devotion to God is in the way we treat his creation, that is each other. And the best way we can elevate and empower our relationships with each other is to place God squarely into them.
The meaning of life? We bring our humanity to God and then try to bring his divinity to others. That’s why we’re here.
And then there is the master stroke, the composer’s opus, the artist’s masterpiece: He gave to us this very same interconnectedness. Human bodies inseparable from divine souls. Bodies that will weaken, suffer and fail. Souls that will prevail, endure and soar. They are… together.
Jesus said that we are to love God and love others. And pointedly perhaps, today’s Gospel notes that this: “is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” There are rules and complexities, subtleties, nuance and machinations and all manners of debate about all this stuff we talk about here in church.
All the stuff about Church.
I’ve been praying about that.
And I say…
Let’s get back to basics.