Mk 12: 28-34

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and 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.”

Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.

Being a Supporting Actor

You are not the center of the universe! The entire world does NOT revolve around you.

I want to remind you of this, because I need the reminder too. I fall into this temptation all the time. I love to make myself the center of the universe. I want everything to revolve around me. So, I won’t answer my phone when a friend calls because I have decided that the moment is not convenient enough for me. Or I’ll scoff at God when I don’t get the job that I wanted or the grade I thought I deserved … because it’s all about me, right??

Jesus is asked by a scribe about the most important commandment. He quotes Deuteronomy from the first reading: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Then he adds, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are called to love God – neighbor – self. All three are important, without a doubt. But let’s pay attention to the order. We do not come first. God – neighbor – self. In fact, we come last.

Why is that? It is because we are not the center of the universe. God is! And God should be at the center of our lives.

Perhaps we could think of ourselves more like supporting actors in God’s great drama unfolding through time. When we think about it this way, it can actually be quite freeing. We might want to resolve all issues of injustice, or bring loved ones back to the faith. Those are good, holy thoughts. And we should stand up to injustice and share our faith with others. But we also have to trust that God is the one at the center of it all.

God did not create you or me to save all of humanity. We already have a Savior, right? It’s Jesus. Let us keep Jesus at the center of our lives. Let us join together in his divine plan as supporting actors, fulfilling our role, but not placing ourselves at the center.

—Fr. Brian Strassburger, SJ, is a member of the Jesuits USA Central and Southern Province. He was ordained this summer and is helping to meet pastoral needs in the Rio Grande Valley on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Prayer

I put myself in spirit before our crucified Lord,
looking at him full of sorrow,
shedding his blood and bearing great bodily hardships for me.

As love is paid for in love,
I must imitate him,
sharing in spirit all his sufferings.
I must consider how much I owe him
and what he has done for me.
Putting these sufferings between God and my soul,
I must say, “What does it matter, my God,
that I should endure for your love these small hardships?
For you, Lord, endured so many great hardships for me.”
Amid the hardship and trial itself,
I stimulate my heart with this exercise.

Thus, I encourage myself to endure for love of the Lord who is before me,
until I make what is bitter sweet.
In this way learning from Christ our Lord,
I take and convert the sweet into bitter,
renouncing myself and all earthly and carnal pleasures,
delights and honors of this life,
so that my whole heart is centered solely on God.

—St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, SJ, whose feast day is October 31