One of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Matthew 22:35-40 NRSV
What is this love you ask of us, Jesus? What does it look like?
I’m sure that it’s not a warm fuzzy feeling, or that intense desire we feel toward one another. That kind of love can be good and healthy, but I’m sure that’s not what you mean.
I’m sure it’s not familial love, either. After all, you tell us that we cannot follow you unless we are willing to hate our brothers, sisters, mother and father. (Something we really need to clarify with you, by the way…)
And you don’t mean to love God like I love my country, or my alma mater’s football team, do you? Because that love can fade and is often fickle.
What does this love look like? Heart, soul, mind, and strength love…
Is it that love of which we sing, that love that will not let us go? Is it that love that understands that we are not individuals, but rather connected to one another and to you? Is this heart-mind-soul-strength love a living out of that connection, that attachment with you, O God, and creation?
If it is, if that is the love on which our history, our future, our lives hang, than we can do no other than lift our world up to you in prayer. For the joys of others are our joys and their pain is our pain.
So we lift our prayers to you:
- Prayers of celebration as Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, just over two years after nearly being killed in an attack returning from school.
- Prayers for all political leaders, but especially for Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, who was re-elected in a hotly-contested race.
- Prayers for those in captivity, whether in physical, emotional, mental or spiritual bondage, but especially for those held by Boko Haram, who kidnapped at least 30 more boys and girls in Nigeria over the past weekend.
- Prayers for students and teachers around the world, especially those who face violence in the schools, like the teacher in Estonia who was shot and killed in the classroom by a student this past week.
- Prayers for those throughout the Middle East who are deeply impacted by the beliefs and actions of ISIS. Including the people of Iraq whose cultural heritage is threatened as statues, reliefs, shrines and mosques are destroyed or sold.
- Prayers for our own families, friends and neighbors who have their own celebrations and struggles.
May your presence be with each and every one of us, reminding us to love, to recognize and celebrate our connection with you and with one another.