It has been sixteen years since I sat in Sister Lucy’s classroom. To this day I clearly remember her picking up a piece of white chalk and writing Sh’ma on the blackboard. Listen, she explained, expressing how deeply she desired for us to remember not only the Hebrew word, but what it actually was: the commandment God’s people receive in today’s First Reading:
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
At first hearing, the Great Commandment may sound overwhelming, demanding, perhaps even impossible. But in reality, dear sisters, this commissioning is an invitation to a loving relationship with God, our Father. If we have no relationship of love with God, what do we have? The Holy Spirit brings to mind a familiar verse from Corinthians, where we learn that without love we gain nothing; we are nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). Without a deep, intimate, personal encounter of love with God, we are lost.
When we love the Lord, we will never be alone or forsaken. When we love the Lord and are obedient to Him, He will be with us. (John 14:23). When we love the Lord, we come to have a fullness of heart, bound to overflow into love of neighbor, as Jesus teaches to be the second commandment in today’s Gospel. (Mark 12:29-30).
The living out of these greatest commandments will look different for each one of us. We are on our own personal journeys with the Lord. Each of us bearing different crosses, celebrating a variety of joys, living in different communities. Yet we should all be committed to deeper relationship and communion with God Who in His perfect design created us to desire His Love.
Let us do our best to love Him with our whole hearts and souls, that by His grace it will be as Jesus tells the man in today’s Gospel, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:34). No, neither are we, sisters. Neither are we.
Spend some time in prayer with the Great Commandment. Ask the Lord: What would it look like for me to truly love You with all my heart, all my soul, and all my strength?
Elise Howe is a devoted wife, momma, vocal artist and teacher. She currently resides in New York City, though she will always be a Midwestern gal at heart. Elise has a heart for ministry, dark chocolate (but not too dark) and coffee with a generous amount of cream + sugar. Find out more about her here.