Gospel Meditation: The Greatest Commandment
I offer a guided Ignatian meditation on today's Gospel. This is an invitation to let the scripture enter into your heart and mind and speak personally to you. Ignatius said that meditation specifically engages our memory, thoughts, and will. We hear the word of God, and we ponder it, noticing any words, images, or ideas that speak to our hearts. And we speak to God about all of this.
If this way of praying is new – simply relax and try to become engaged in the text. Try not to worry about what you are “supposed to” be doing. If you find yourself distracted during your prayer, very gently bring yourself back to the scripture text.
If at any point during the guided meditation the scripture comes to life in such a way that God invites to you stay with a particular moment, follow the invitation that you sense, rather than move on to where the written meditation is going. In that case you might want to stop reading and continue on your own.
The Shema, or Sh’ma Yisrael, is considered by many the most essential affirmation of Jewish faith. It begins with the verse from Deuteronomy 6:4: “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone.” The following verses also form part of the Shema. In naming these verses as the first of all the commandments, Jesus names a prayer that is still significant for Jews today. It is traditionally recited daily upon waking and before going to sleep -- and ideally, is the last thing said before death.
This gospel comes after several instances of Jewish authorities questioning Jesus’ authority (in the wake of the cleansing of the temple and other moments skipped by the lectionary at this point in the year). This particular scribe, however, seems to be more of an admirer of Jesus than a critic.
Quiet your body and mind
- Choose a position where you can be relaxed but alert.
- Breathe deeply several times and let your body relax
- Breathe out any worries or stressful thoughts and put them in God’s hands
- Become aware of God’s presence here with you now, looking at you with love.
Ask for a grace
- Ask God for whatever you desire most in this prayer time. If you are not sure what to ask for, you might ask for the grace to know Jesus more intimately, to love him more intensely, and to follow him more closely.
Read the scripture passage
Read the passage slowly twice, savoring the words. The first time, just listen to get a sense of it, to hear what is being said. The second time, notice any word or phrase, image, or idea that speaks to your heart or “shimmers” for you. Stay with that word, image, or idea and ponder its meaning. Notice how it makes you feel. Savor the experience.
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “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.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question.
As you listened to this passage, is there a word or phrase that called your attention in some way? Or an idea or image that surfaced through the passage? Stay with that word, phrase, idea or image for the next few minutes of silence. Ponder its meaning, savor it, and notice what feelings come up.
Jesus says the first commandment is “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.” What feelings come up when you hear this? What might those feelings mean?
Jesus says the second commandment is “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” What does it mean to you to love yourself? Ask Jesus what he means by it, and how to apply it to loving your neighbor.
When Jesus says to the scribe, “you are not far from the kingdom of God,” what does that stir in you?
Bring everything you’ve meditated on to a conversation with Jesus. Share with him what is in your heart, as with a friend, and listen to his response. And when you are ready, close with a favorite prayer.
Review of Prayer
St. Ignatius recommends that we review our prayer. A written review has many advantages. It enables us to look back on our prayer experience, and to notice what happened. It allows us to be fully present to our experience of prayer. We do not write while we are praying. The review of prayer enables us not to judge ourselves or look for how well we are doing. It helps us to become more sensitive to how God is speaking to us in the here and now. It is also a precious record of our journey with God, which nourishes wholeness and integration.
Some questions to assist with your review:
What happened in your prayer?
What feelings did you experience?
During the prayer period, when did you feel encouraged?
When did you feel discouraged?
Did you receive the grace you asked for?
What did you receive?
Headwaters by Chad Crouch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 Unported License