One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
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 12:28-31
Hurricane Michael hit the northwest panhandle of Florida nearly 4 weeks ago.
There is so much devastation and loss in that area. They are still working
through the struggles of clearing debris and cleaning what they can salvage.
Basic needs have been scarce and many have been affected.
A few days after the hurricane hit, my husband’s company sent him to the area to
assist the people in need. He was gone for two weeks and I missed him dearly.
I kept telling myself that I was experiencing such a small sacrifice of being
without my best friend for two weeks compared to the devastation and loss that
the hurricane victims were suffering. However, being human, I could feel myself
getting grumpier and full of self-pity as each day passed. My heart was so full of
selfishness and it began to show in my relationships with those who were right
there in front of me. I was not loving the Lord with all my heart and certainly not
loving my neighbor, as Jesus directs us in today’s Gospel from Mark.
When I discover that I am not following God’s greatest commandments, here’s
what I try to do.
Count my blessings.
I begin reflecting on all the good things in my life: my family, my health,
my home, my job, my friends, my church community, my freedom to worship, my
ability to create, . . . Honestly, the list can go on and on and on. When we can
recognize all the goodness, our hearts immediately turn to gratitude for the
blessings in our lives. All the sorrow that burdened my heart now suddenly turns
to joy – an even deeper joy than before. My heart begins to empty of the sorrow,
pain, fear. My heart can then begin to fill with His love. These lyrics come to my
mind from the song “Deeper”, performed by Meredith Andrews.
“Every valley made me lift my eyes up. Every burden only made me
stronger. Every sorrow only made my joy go deeper and deeper.”
Seek mercy and forgiveness.
Who have I hurt? Who has hurt me? In the joy of my blessings and in the
depths of His love in my heart, I must seek His mercy and forgiveness. How?
Go to God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Pour out my sorrow and pain and
bring to light the darkness of my sins. One of my most memorable experiences
of confession was at World Youth Day 2016 in Krakow, Poland in a hotel lobby. I
was feeling full of hurt and darkness in my heart and literally said out loud, “I
need to go to confession.” I turned my head and there walking through the hotel
doors, was our bishop. I thought, well, one of my mantras is “God knows and will
provide for our every need.” He certainly pulled through for me on this one. I
summoned the courage to approach our bishop and asked if he would hear my
confession. It was a beautiful moment in my life. I still remember our
conversation and his recommendation to me. He told me to read and reflect on
1 Corinthians 13. To this day, when I don’t feel His love, I open my bible and
read that passage. It reminds me of what His love is all about and guides me in
the direction to find His love right where I am – physically, emotionally, and
Share, Give. Love.
What do you do when you receive good news? You have to tell someone
about it! I like to walk on the beach and look for shark teeth. It’s just something
that I find relaxing and enjoyable. When I find a big shark tooth, I can’t wait to
show it to someone. I have to fight the urge to run up to the complete stranger
that is trying to enjoy their peaceful walk on the beach, and tell them all about my
great find. Good news, happiness, joy and love – it is all meant to be shared.
When we experience the greatness of God’s mercy, the depth of His
unconditional love, the beauty of His blessings, we are called to share it with
others. Allow the light of LOVE to SHINE – through your encounters with all –
through your words, your actions, your hearts, your souls, your minds, your
Jesus gave all for you. Give your all to Him and to others – Love the Lord your
God with all your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength; and love others, as
yourself. There are no greater commandments than these.