Scripture (Mark 12: 28-34)
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.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
A youth minister was not a vocation I saw myself in when I was younger, however, as I grow in my new role I find it more rewarding than I ever could have imagined. I find the teens I work with to be so profound, whether they know it or not. This fall, I was reflecting with my 9th graders on a similar passage found in Matthew and they asked me: “If these two commandments are the greatest—why do we need the other 8?” A seemingly simple question, but it caused me to pause and think. I stumbled, but eventually came to tell them that the other 8 commandments stem from these two and that they are specific ways in which we are to live out the greatest commandments. This moment prompted me to stop and consider just how great these commandments are, and what they entail.
Loving the Lord above all things—this is something we have heard a million times but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Sometimes, every day practices interfere with us loving the Lord to the best of our ability, such as: toxic relationships, gossip, bad habits/old routines, our work, and even ourselves sometimes! Lent is a great time to put these things that keep us from God aside and form new habits that lead us closer to Him.
Loving our neighbor. This commandment is one that I try to live my life by. Growing up, it was instilled in my sister and I that we are called to love everyone, no matter the color of their skin, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, political affiliation, how many commandments they have broken, etc. This is something I learned first-hand in graduate school—living in San Diego for two years. I encountered people coming to this country—seeking a better life for themselves and their families—who had absolutely nothing. We are called to see the face of Christ in these and all people. Christ welcomed the sinner, cleansed the leper, and gave hope to the hopeless. We are called to love our neighbor by walking in His footsteps and encouraging others to follow suit. I encourage you to pick up a new practice this Lent and see the face of Christ in all you encounter.
- What old practices/habits are keeping me from loving God?
- What can I do to leave these behind this Lent and open myself up to God’s loving embrace?
- How will seeing the face of Christ in others affect the way I relate/think about others?
- How can the Lord help me to see His face in those that are particularly challenging?
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
PRAY for the ability to see Christ in others.
FAST from habits that lead you away from Christ.
GIVE kindness and peace to all you encounter.
Good and Gracious God, thank you for all of the wonderful blessings you have bestowed upon us. Help us to live your commandments. Help us to see your face in all that we encounter and serve, especially for those where it is particularly challenging. Grant us your peace as we go forward in your footsteps.
Hannah Bergland is the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry at St. Boniface Parish in Germantown. She is a graduate of Cardinal Stritch University and the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, California.