stillness

To Love Christ is to Love Others

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.

Reflection

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.

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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.

Questions

  • 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?
We have to routinely put away our attachment to natural appearance and our habit of judging according to the outward face of things. I must learn that my fellow man, just as he is, whether he is my friend or my enemy, my brother or a stranger from the other side of this world, whether he be wise or foolish, no matter what his limitations, ‘is Christ.’
— Thomas Merton
 
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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.

Action 

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.

 

Prayer

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.

Amen.

Author

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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.

Listen

Scripture (Jer 7:23-28)

Thus says the LORD:
This is what I commanded my people:
Listen to my voice;
then I will be your God and you shall be my people.
Walk in all the ways that I command you,
so that you may prosper.

But they obeyed not, nor did they pay heed.
They walked in the hardness of their evil hearts
and turned their backs, not their faces, to me.
From the day that your fathers left the land of Egypt even to this day,
I have sent you untiringly all my servants the prophets.
Yet they have not obeyed me nor paid heed;
they have stiffened their necks and done worse than their fathers.
When you speak all these words to them,
they will not listen to you either;
when you call to them, they will not answer you.
Say to them:
This is the nation that does not listen
to the voice of the LORD, its God,
or take correction.
Faithfulness has disappeared;
the word itself is banished from their speech.

Reflection

Some time ago there was a family with whom I would be invited to their Sunday dinners.  The family was gregarious and very loud.  Often, they would talk over one another.  When one member felt they were not being heard they spoke louder.  It became a cycle of loudness as they sought a validation that would never come.  Inevitably an argument would ensue as all parties involved felt misunderstood.  It is impossible to be understood if no one hears you.  Next time they would just speak louder, and the cycle continued.  This family is a microcosm of society.  I-message, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Marco Polo, 24 hour a day news channels, binge watching Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBOGO, podcasts, Spotify, YouTube, etc., etc., etc. The noise and stimulation are constant.  Some people even listen to music or Netflix while they sleep.  There are more ways to communicate than ever, but much like the family with whom I had dinner, no one seems to be listening.    

Social media has made everyone the expert.  There is no need to listen to anyone else. We have all the answers and a vehicle to share them.  It is as if we are at dinner and the noise level goes up as we try to make sure that we are heard.  One casualty of this current culture is that we don’t even listen to ourselves.  Parker Palmer wrote a book titled:  Let Your Life Speak.  In this book he writes, “Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it I must listen to my life telling me who I am.” Listening is a skill and it demands quiet.  Constant stimulation, busyness and the pressure to put forth a certain image prevents us from hearing what our own lives tell us.  Grasping for likes and shares – grasping for approval and acceptance- can prevent us from living authentically.

Living an authentic life cannot happen without knowing that our purpose and existence is intimately connected to the presence of God.  In Jeremiah, God asks us to: “Listen to my voice; then I will be your God and you shall be my people.”  Unfortunately, the people turn their back to God.  They have no need for God.  They are their own expert, their own prophet, their own God.  Jeremiah goes on to say, “This is the nation that does not listen to the voice of the LORD, its God, or take correction.  Faithfulness has disappeared; the word itself is banished from their speech.”

Hearing God’s voice requires stillness.  It will take a conscious effort to break the cycle of loudness and busyness.  Sometime ago there was a movement to give God 1% of your day.  This 1% translates to 15 minutes.  What if you set aside 15 minutes to read the daily reading, tell God about each person you met during the day or to write in a prayer journal?  Maybe your quiet time could be on the elliptical or when you are out for a run.  Aldous Huxley suggests that God cannot be known without silence.  If we take 1% of our day to listen to God, it will become abundantly clear that God has claimed us as his own and we will prosper! 

Questions

  • How much time do you find for quiet reflection or prayer to listen to God?
  • What strategies might you use to make time for prayer?
  • How is your life telling you about who you are?
Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it I must listen to my life telling me who I am.
— Parker Palmer
 
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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.

Action 

FAST from social media for one day.   

PRAY by sitting in silence with God.  Just listen.

GIVE your attention to someone who needs it today.

Author

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Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1.  He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991.  Besides 12plus1 he also teaches part time for Dominican High School and the Cardinal Stritch University Claire Center for Catholic Life.  He is married to Maribeth.  Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle puppy.