“You are not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:34); these are the words of Jesus to a non-controversial lawyer who wanted to learn. They will guide our reflection on this thirty-first Sunday.
What keeps me away/far from God? What keeps me away from the Church?
When our lives are filled with so many priorities, sources of truth, God becomes least and our love for him diminishes. We get far away from him and God’s community of Christian disciples is filled with self-centered and selfish priorities. The Church becomes second in our list of priorities too. When I am not able to see God as a sensible idea to me in the midst of all other ideas the contemporary world and technological advances offer to me, then, I am far away from God and his kingdom.
When I am not able to experience God’s presence in my life through the rocks, sand, mud and mountains in my life, then love for him and the neighbour disappears and my ability to see others as a blessing and a gift to me vanishes.
One of the African writers Laurenti Magesa was asked what is the importance of Small Christian Communities and he said: “they are a locus for the concrete expression of the theological virtue of love”. Today, an expert of the law approaches Jesus wanting to know the summary and importance of the law. He is eager to learn, to become a disciple of Jesus.
Growing up in my Small Christian Community of Saint Anthony of Padua, Kenya, I learned that the answer given by Magesa is true and that this lawyer had he belonged to a small Christian Community he would succinctly know the meaning of Love that summarizes the law. In the Small Christian Communities, Christians meet every week in the house/home of one of them as a concrete expression of love for God and his word and for one another. To the Christians in their Small Christian Communities, a neighbour is a visible sign of encounter with God and through the sharing of life experiences in the light of God’s word, all Christians feel that God loves everyone. The sharing in the Small Christian Communities enables the Christians to experience love of God and express it through each member’s exercise of listening skills and resolve to respond to the moving experiences from the members through a concrete action of charity. This reveals how Christians contemplate together and individually the love of God and the neighbour. That the love God has for me is the same love he has for the other person. This experience keeps people close to God and to his Church.
The two dimensions of love: For God and the neighbour constitute our true Christian life. Love is the essence of living and we become part of it when we love God and others. Love without loving people is fake and love without loving God is Idolatry.
Jesus received the expert of the law who approached him without prejudices or stereotypes of race, colour or tribe and he saw someone eager to learn. Jesus received him with love. Love receives and welcomes with discernment than judgment.
Sometimes my prejudices keep me away from God and the neighbour. If I cannot love the neighbour I can see, then I can’t love God whom I cannot see. When I feel that loving my neighbour as myself is too demanding when even the “who I am” is not standing up but only hiding my weaknesses and covering up, I remain far from God’s kingdom.
Our total acceptance that we are children of God created by love and for love makes us find it easy to stay close to Love that begets us always, God who in Jesus Christ the high priest has shown us love through sacrifice for all.
Joy and Peace.