i did my clinical pastoral education (cpe) in seattle during the summer of 1993. reverend delmas leudke was the director. i worked half time at swedish hospital and half time at the martin de porres homeless shelter. cpe is a program with various individual and group processes that help the professional minister uncover issues/challenges/gifts from one’s life and how they may affect the pastoral care of people in ministry. cpe can be very eye opening in one’s life; it was for me. being aware of the negative issues in our lives helps us minimize them as we interact with others as ministers of the gospel. we can better love others with the gifts God has given us.
one phrase that delmas used at various times with us was “when are you going to give that up?” i cannot remember the specifics of when he placed that graced question. it could have been during incidences of perfectionism, self deceit, control, forced will, negative self concept, manipulation, or a host of other things that hinder our service. “when are you going to give that up” pops into my mind every now and then when i look into my own continuing struggle with my own foibles. giving up that which hinder us is not an easy task.
in the gospel for today from mark 12, jesus teaches a scribe about love and the kingdom of God:
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
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 yourself’
is 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.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
the scribe understood jesus’ response to his question: which law is the most important? but the response is an impossible task. can we give all of our heart, mind, understanding, soul, and strength? all? but at least the scribe answered with understanding. he understood the primacy of jesus’ emphasis on love of God and neighbor. did he understand that loving God and loving neighbor were not two different actions but one in the same?
did he that understanding is not doing?
one of my favorite definitions of love comes from st thomas aquinas. he said that love is to will the good (of the other person) and to do it. love is an act of the will and action toward it. so, in order to love well we must constantly expand our understanding of what is good, strengthen our will for this good in others and act toward that good. what is the good towards my father, daughter? my co-worker? of that homeless person? of that person– my enemy– that hurt me?
we also need to be aware of our own character flaws and weaknesses that hinder this kind of love. and then, how to “give them up.” indeed, it is not easy to be a mature christian; love can be confusing at times.
isn’t this why we need to hear these love commandments often? to be reminded of their primacy is to get back on track; to understand again much like the scribe in the gospel. at mass, isn’t this what communion really is? jesus shows us anew what love is: giving his life for his friends and invites our acceptance and response. jesus wills our ultimate good and making it happen– jesus loves us.