CLOSE BUT NOT IN


THIRTY-FIRST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME


READINGS: https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/103121.cfm


In the gospel reading of this 31st Sunday in ordinary times (Mark 12:28b-34), Christ, after listening to a Pharisee’s reasoning about what Scriptures says about the commandments, told him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of Heaven”. The problem here is that not being far from the kingdom of heaven is not the same thing as being in it. What we need is to be inside the kingdom, not close to it. We can know all about God and yet not know God. To know God is to have a personal relationship with Him and to have a personal relationship with Him, we need to love Him the way He wants to be loved—with all four aspects of our humanity—our heart (emotions), our soul (psych), our mind (intellect), and our strength (ability, physicality).

To love God with all our heart means that God wants an emotional commitment in our love for Him; an exciting and expressive love, like the outpouring of emotions we experience when our favorite teams are playing and winning. God wants us to rejoice and be glad by the things that concern Him; to have an appetite for Him; to desire to spend time with Him in adoration, worship, and praise.

Christ also noted that being excited and emotionally committed in our love for God is not enough. God, also, desires our psychological commitment—loving Him with all your soul. God wants our love for Him to govern how we see ourselves, others, and the world; how we interpret events in our lives; and how we see his presence in all of creation. God wants to make our relationship with Him an “All or Nothing Affair”; to make Him the center of our lives. No wonder Scripture says, “Since you are neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out”.


But to be excited about God and to make Him the center of our life is almost impossible if we are not clear as to “Who” God is. If we are not clear as to “Who” God is, our love for Him will not be real. Therefore Christ says that our love for God calls for a mental commitment—to love God with your entire mind. Mental commitment involves (a) believing that God is God alone, and He is the God of creation (for if God is not the God of creation, then He has no power over principalities, dominions, authorities, and powers of darkness in the heavenly places, in which case, we are doomed); (b) believing that God is faithful to His promises, for Scripture says, “Faithful is the one that calls you, who will also do it” (If God is not faithful to His promises, we worship and serve Him in vain and our faith is useless); (c) believing that God has a plan for my life and that He will see me through it if I put my trust in Him, for scripture says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future full of hope” (if God has no plans for my life, I am, then, merely, a product of chance); and (d) believing that there is final judgment and hereafter to which we are accountable (if there is no hereafter, we have all labored in vain).


Knowing who God is inviting us to a commitment of the will—to love Him with all your strength, for Scripture says, “My faithful one shall live by faith alone and if he draws back, I have no pleasure in him”. Many a time, life situations can conspire to take our eyes off of God and push Him into a secondary position. To love God with all your strength is to love God with every fiber in you; to love Him in very practical ways; to deploy your time, talent, and treasure in the service of His kingdom; to become a distributive agent of His graces to humanity. No wonder, Jesus said, “The second is like the first; you must love your neighbor as yourself”. May the good Lord grant us the grace to love Him exclusively and totally, Amen!

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