|Tug with empty barge heading east on the Erie Canal|
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 yourselfis 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." Mark 12:32-34This conversation takes place in the midst of a series of challenges to Jesus and his authority by the high priests, Sadducees, Pharisees and scribes. They are all trying to rip him up except for this questioner who asks a sincere question: "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus answers that the first and greatest is to love the Divine One with all one's heart and mind. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. This was typical question used to engage people with the law and its fundamental principles. With hundreds of laws and regulations, the law could be overwhelming and thus it would be natural to figure out the fundamental principles that ran through all the diverse regulations.
The scribe understands the wisdom of Jesus' answer. Surely Yahweh cares more about fidelity to those two principles than any sacrifice offered in the temple. Jesus realizes that he understands these fundamental principles of the law and tells him that he is "not far from the Kingdom of God." This is an intriguing way of saying that simply living by these two principles is not enough to enter the Kingdom. They are necessary but not sufficient in and of themselves. Something more is required but what that something might be is left for another time.
What about me? Living an upright life of loving God and loving my neighbor is also not enough to enter the Kingdom. Something more is required...but what?
A week has gone by since I wrote the above sentence. It is a haunting question that has only one answer, however uncomfortable that answer might be. A life of rectitude is simply not enough. I have to die to myself. I have to give up what I want and I can do that because, in truth, I have everything that I need. I have to somehow let go of my ego and its demands for attention, gratification, recognition, respect and on an on. This is the path to recognition and acceptance of who I truly am, a child of the Divine One.