Friday of the Third Week of Lent

One of the trends within the genre of popular advice is that things are simple and we only make them complex. Authors have identified the insights that we learned in kindergarten, from our mothers, and from scouts as providing enough information in helping us through life. It would seem as if today’s readings support this idea.

In today’s gospel Jesus reduces, to the satisfaction of inquiries, all the commandments of the Jewish Law to only two: Love God and love your neighbor. The scribe who initiated the inquiry agrees:

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.

Of course it would be tempting to ask why we need all this religious structure, when it seems that the whole project of our lives can be spoken in one breath. Can’t things be simpler?

The answer of course is simple. Life is complex. Have you tried opening one of those sealed plastic wrapped containers while flying on an airplane with your arms squeezed to your side? And it only gets worse…

Although the goals of our lives may be simple and clear, the means to them often is complex and difficult. Doctors spend years in post-graduate work to learn how to comply with the mandate of doing no harm. Engineers likewise have as their goal building safe buildings. All very simple goals, the challenge comes when you have to do the surgery or build the bridge.

And that, of course, is why Christ instituted the church. The community of the church, with all its rituals and social activities help us find ways to implement and direct our complex lives towards the two great commandments of love of God and love of neighbor.

March 28th, 2014