Matthew 22:34 - 40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’
The whole basis of Christian teaching in possibly the most famous few words of the Gospel.
It appears that Jesus has made everything simple for us - don't worry about those 600-odd rules of Judaic living; don't even worry about the Ten Commandments; just do these two things - that's all I ask.
The trouble with simple stuff is it doesn't leave you with any room for manoeuvre. We know what Jesus means when he says 'neighbour' - everyone you ever meet, everyone on the planet - we are all connected. If you don't want to love someone whether it's your awkward and actual next door neighbour, the down-and-out who comes and sits next to you on the park bench or the Third World child dying of Aids, you can't go and find the loophole; there won't be one.
Love the Lord your God? Easy enough, don't we all love him? We pray to him, we visit him in church, we wear crosses and little fish; of course we love him. He doesn't need much more love than that- he is, after all, God. Hmm.
I have recently became a grandmother. And I was proudly nursing my three week old grandchild up and down the aisle of church the other day when a friend remarked - 'Look, madonna and child.' I accepted the compliment. This morning I spent three hours walking the house nursing her through a bout of colic. It wasn't the first time, probably not the last.
In the haze of tiredness, images of the real Madonna and baby came into my head.
Always too perfect, too serene,too good to be true. If only.
This is an image of a human and God. And God is not in control, God is not telling her what to do, God is not mighty. It is human love that is mighty. It is human love that can take on the total dependence of a baby. It is human love that springs unreasoningly from nowhere. It is human love that can walk the floors, not knowing what the matter is, not knowing what else to do but being prepared to do anything, give up anything to bring peace. It isn't a law - we can't be commanded to do this - God needs us to love him and with the kind of love we can give; heart and soul and all our might: who can blame him?