Jesus says, “The greatest commandment is this: ‘Hear O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:29-31)
I once knew a very old married couple who radiated a tremendous happiness. The wife especially, who was almost unable to move because of old age and illness and in whose kind old face the joys and sufferings of many years had etched a hundred runs, was filled with such gratitude for life that I was touched to the quick.
Involuntarily I asked myself what could possibly be the source of this kindly old person’s radiance. Otherwise they were very common people and their room indicated only the most modest comfort. But suddenly I knew where it all came from, for I saw these two speaking to each other and their eyes hanging upon each other. All at once it became clear to me that this woman was dearly loved. And it was as if she were like a stone that has been lying in the sun for years and years, absorbing all its radiant warmth, and now was reflecting back cheerfulness and warmth and serenity.
Let me express it this way. It was not because she was this kind of cheerful and pleasant person that she was loved by her husband all those years. It was probably the other way around. Because she was so loved, she became the person I now saw before me.
This thought continued to pursue me and the more it pursued me, the more it lost all its merely edifying and sentimental features, until finally they were gone altogether. For if this is true, then I surely must come to the following conclusion. If my life partner or my friend or just people generally often seem to be so strange and I ask myself: “Have I made the right marriage, the right friendship; is this particular person really the one who is suited to me?” — then I cannot understand this question in the style of a neutral diagnosis which would list the reasons for and against. For happens then is that the question turns back upon myself, and then it reads: “Have I perhaps bestowed too little love on this other person, that they have become so cold and empty? Have I perhaps caused them to become what perhaps they really have become? The other person, whom God has joined to me, is never what they are apart from me. They are not only bone of my bone; they are also boredom of my boredom and lovelessness of my lovelessness.”
And it is exactly the same with our relation to God. If a person is steeped in emptiness and boredom and is tired of life, the reason for it is that they have not allowed themselves to be loved by God and have not put themselves in God’s hands. One who does not love makes the other person wither and dry up. And one who does not allow themselves to be loved dries up too. For love is a creative thing. Ω
Reflect: Think of one person whom God has joined to you in some way. What will you do or say to show them love today?
What is this? Lent is the 40 days, excluding Sundays, before Easter. Traditionally it is a time of reflection and pilgrimage. To help you on this journey, Sanctuary has put together 40 stories from people both within and beyond the congregation, with associated questions for reflection and prayer. A reading will be uploaded every day of Lent. This year’s theme is Fruit of the Spirit. Why? Read this. #Lent2022. Real People, Real Stories: 40 Readings for Lent © Sanctuary, 2022. Helmut Thielicke. How the World Began. Translation and Introduction by John W. Doberstein. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1961: 99-100.
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