Projecting what He places in our Hearts
Our dear friend Ilene died recently. She converted to Judaism when she married Jay almost 30 years ago. We attended the Shiva, the week-long mourning period, at their home after the burial. Jay invited a Rabbi to pray with the mourners each night. I was inspired by the devotion, the insight of God’s greater plan and our limited understanding. One prayer was very familiar, considered by some the most essential prayer in all of Judaism: the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-13). It’s traditionally recited as the last words before death:
Hear O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One
Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
Our lives and our faith abound in mystery and uncertainty, but God is consistent about this: Jesus considered that opening exhortation from Deuteronomy as the first of His two great commandments in Luke 10:27, followed by the “second like it” from Leviticus 19:18 – “Love thy neighbor as thyself”. The subtext was to love God as He loves you; and share that love with the others that He also loves.
What a gift – the rules plainly stated! Christ’s distillation of the law is the very core of our Christian faith, and the impact is magnificent: darkness to light, meaningless to truth and purpose. He’s fond of gifts: the Inventor knows how our complex machines work and what’s in our best interest.
Victor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, founded a school of psychotherapy that describes a search for life's meaning as the central human motivational force. In his celebrated book “Man’s Search for Meaning”, he quotes Nietzsche saying, “Those who have a 'why' to live, can bear with almost any 'how'.” Chris Stefanik, a popular Catholic speaker and author, picks up this theme in a poignant 2-minute appeal: transcendent meaning can’t come from within. That meaning is the Love of God, and us loving Him in return! The Master has shown His incalculable generosity and Mercy to us, and we’re graced to be able to reciprocate that love to Him and to our neighbor.
Back to the “second like it”: the scholar of the law asks Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” in Luke 10:29. The response, the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37), was the inspiration for the Ulma family, rural but educated Catholics who decided to defy the Nazi edict in 1942 and housed a group of 8 Jews starting with the Goldman sisters, their former neighbors whose land had been confiscated. They lived and worked the family farm for 18 months along with the Ulma’s family of 7 children. All 17 were summarily massacred by the Nazis on March 24, 1944, for doing so. Found at their home was a Bible with only 3 verses underlined and the word “YES” written beside it: Luke 10:35-37.
The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Say your YES every day! What daily habits do you have (or want) that express your love for the Lord and your neighbor? How might you “light another’s flame” to feel that same love?