Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, and soul
A reflection for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
by Jovina James
In this week’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of love directed three ways: toward God, toward ourselves, and toward our neighbour. We notice that it is only the love toward God that we are exhorted to do with all our heart, all our mind, and all our soul. This complete concentration of our entire self on loving God might seem possible in those times of spiritual plenty, when we feel bathed in God’s love for us, but what about when things are tough and prayer is stretched? Can we really love Him with that intensity and focus in those times?
For me, the most desolate time of my life was almost exactly four years ago. It was early spring in the hot coastal Australian town where my family was living, and the evening air was already becoming thick and sticky. My husband and I found ourselves at evening Mass at my local parish, a rather rundown, unimaginative, weatherboard church that looked like some hard-working families may have knocked it together in one weekend a few decades ago. It was twenty-four hours after our eight-month-old son had unexpectedly slipped into Heaven in his sleep. I was numb in my heart and my mind and my soul, and I was at Mass because someone – I cannot remember who – had driven us there to be face to face with the Lord.
There, in the least beautiful church, with the simplest of liturgies, looking unkempt and feeling like a zombie, all I could pray the whole Mass was “I have nothing, Lord. You are it.” It did not make sense. But it was all I could muster. In the least eloquent way, with so little fortitude or hope, feeling entirely impoverished, I was giving God all I had left. It did not look much like loving God with all my heart and mind and soul, it did not feel ardent or pious or holy. Yet I see that it was a singular moment where my heart and mind and soul were united in one act of desperate love for the Lord my God. Not in some show of heroic admirable strength but the prayer of a mother knowing she had nothing left. I was shattered, and this action of surrender seemed to hold the shards together, on that day and on the many desolate days to come. In that time when my mind was reliving the past, my heart was haemorrhaging pain, and my soul was dark and lonely, loving God with all my heart and mind and soul prevented me from falling apart.
This kind of desperation is not always what it looks like to love God with all our heart and mind and soul. But in a world of broken people, where lives are messy and suffering, being able to focus on a perfect, unwavering God and offer our small but entire
gift of love offers the fragmented soul a focal point to unite her soul and heart and mind. How else, when our minds are running at light speed in countless different directions, and our hearts are attached to earthly things with unholy tenacity, and our souls are blunted by wounds we do not even stop to examine, how else can we be truly whole if we do not have a perfect object on which to centre ourselves? How else? Jesus tells us to love Him with all our hearts and minds and souls because no other act we do can make us more human, more integral, more complete. No other object of our love can unite a person. If I attempt to love myself with all my heart and mind and soul, I continue to spin out of control. If I attempt to love my neighbour with all my heart and mind and soul, I may well drag them down with me.
In the Christian life we can tend to feel that loving God is something that is good for God
. Yet, knowing what we do of God, this cannot be the complete picture. When I love God with the unified focus of my heart and mind and soul, it is good for me
. Especially in the times when we are dry, desolate, and struggling. When we are spinning out of control or the living of our faith is blurred, if we focus every part of ourselves on the Lord our God and give Him our love – no matter how paltry it may seem - we find a steadying focal point on which we can bring ourselves together again. What a God we have, who makes this the greatest commandment.
The readings for the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, are
1 Thessalonians 1:5c-10
Jovina James is a general practitioner who has been practicing medicine for almost ten years. She lives in sunny Brisbane, Australia, with her husband and their three living children. She loves anything that gets her outdoors or talking about faith.