Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Sunday Word

Our selection from St. Mark drops a few hints on what makes a saint. Someone asks Jesus what is the greatest commandment, and he responds by citing the Shema -- "Hear, O Israel ... you shall love the Lord your God" -- and adding "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." When the questioner affirms Jesus' response, Jesus says, "You are not far from the kingdom." Even though this curious questioner is not a bona fide, official, one-of-the-twelve disciples, he is able to grasp and accept the truth of Jesus' teaching.

Sounds like God is on a saint search, looking for people headed for the kingdom. Qualifications seem to be acknowledging that God is the one true God, and then showing love that flows in two directions, to God and to our neighbor. A saint is not necessarily a scholarly superstar or even a supernatural steeplechaser ... instead, a saint is simply a person who lives out an intense devotion to both God and neighbor.

But wait a second ... not everyone's a saint. In fact, most are far from it. What about those who are a long way from the kingdom, or at least on a significant detour? How did they lose their way? And how can they find their way back?

Some get lost because they haven't received good directions or haven't learned how to listen for guidance from God. Others stray because their judgment is clouded. Others race after big thrills and big money, and risk losing their hearts, souls and minds in the process.

But there is always hope because God is always saint-searching.

God is on a saint search, and it is not only perfect people who are going to be found. Sure, there may be some who are born with the natural ability to love the Lord with the totality of heart, soul, mind and strength -- but for most of us, this passion and power comes only after we discover that God has always loved us, and that his love precedes our own.

Fact is, most of us find the Lord only after we have been found by the Lord.

And all he asks is that we respond with that same level of passion ... loving him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength ... and showing a willingness to love our neighbors as ourselves.

If we do, we'll be God's holy ones, set apart for his service.