And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?" And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live." But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, `Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?" He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."
We often focus on this Gospel as the story of the Good Samaritan. It is indeed a wise lesson, but today, for me, I must focus on the command Jesus gives the lawyer: "Do this, and you will live." He is referring, of course, to "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself." How well do I keep this command?
Do I love God with all of my heart? Are there other people or things which take priority over God? Do I have a deeper affection for God than for my husband? my children? Do I love God with a happy heart only, or when also it is dreary and sad? A challenge - read The Song of Solomon (only 7 chapters) and remember how God's heart is on fire with passionate love for you.
Do I love God with all of my soul? Are there corners of it that are dusty and dreary? Does sin hide in the shadows of my soul and need to be removed? What are my temptations and how can I rid my soul of them, so there is more room for loving God? As said in my Baptism, is my soul unstained or do I need to head to Confession? Do I recognize that I am not only flesh and blood but also soul - the breath of God? Do I preserve my body as a temple of the Holy Spirit and give my body AND soul to the Lord?
Do I love God with all of my strength? When it feels like there is nothing left in me, do I give it to God anyway? When I am beat at the end (or beginning) of a long day, do I still take those moments of prayer to love Him or do I flop on the couch? Do I have confidence God gives me the strength to get through each day, no matter how many challenges I may face? Or do I sometimes despair, wondering how I can make it through another moment? We are soldiers in the cavalry of love, and God is our armor to protect us from our enemies. It is not our choice whether or not to march onward; it is our obligation, our life, our vocation. God will give us strength; He will protect us.
Do I love God with all of my mind? What things are in my mind that take away from my relationship with God? Do my thoughts always praise Him and lead me to Him? Or do I harbor ill thoughts of others or circumstances in my life? Do I fill my mind with good things, maintaining custody of my eyes and ears, not viewing or listening to problematic material? Do I spend time in spiritual reading? Do I learn about my faith? Do I read the Scriptures? If I work, do I offer to God the knowledge that is crucial to my field?
Do I love my neighbor as myself? Forgive me, but occasionally, this command gets a snide remark from me... I'm pretty bad at loving myself, and that is how I love my neighbor. So, check that one off as done! :-) LOL! Seriously, there are two sides to this. We are all guilty of pride and selfishness. Do I love others as much as I love my own thoughts, ideas, desires, accomplishments? Do I put others before myself?
On the other hand, do I show my neighbor the honor, respect, and love that I expect and wish others to show me? (I'm pretty sure this is what Jesus' primary point was.) If I expect my children to obey, do I obey authority? If I wish my husband would bring me flowers, do I buy him his favorite beer on occasion? When was the last time I offered help to a friend or stranger without expecting anything in return? When was the last time I looked the other way when a friend or stranger could have used my help?
The bottom line: our whole selves must belong to God in praise of Him and service to others. Today, my pastor said to me, "Life is hard." I responded, "If it was easy, we wouldn't need God." I pray you will renew your commitment to give everything to Christ every day...even when life is hard.