Living the greatest commandment

A follow-up to Rev. Mary’s sermon from July 31, 2022

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

Our new Priest Associate, Rev. Mary Reese, gave an excellent sermon this past Sunday based on Jesus’ parable of the man who had “too much” from Luke 12:13-21. (You can check out either Sunday Service for July 31, 2022 below. Either video should begin at Rev. Mary’s sermon.)

In her sermon, Mother Mary indicated that the farmer in Jesus’ parable had no place to store his abundant produce. So, he basically “prayed to himself,” deciding to tear down his storage barns and build bigger ones to hold all of his extra harvest. She emphasized his words: “What should do,” “have,” and “will.” Apparently, his character was not listening to a lawyer’s answer to Jesus’ question about what is the “greatest commandment.” The lawyer told Jesus that the greatest commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27).

In Jesus’ story, the farmer with the over-abundant harvest never thought about what God might want him to do, that is, to share some of his grain with those less fortunate than he. Instead, he put himself in the place of God, deciding what he would do with his crops while neglecting to help his neighbors who might not have enough to live on. The parable ends with God telling the man he will die that night, and all his selfish planning will be for naught.

It IS good for us to have a plan for our future! Preparing for one’s retirement years and having written plans in place for when we are close to death (e.g., “advance directives,” a Living Will, and a last Will and Testament) are very helpful to our families who survive our passing.  

As we live out our lives in the wake of this COVID-19 pandemic, many of our nation’s medical authorities continually remind us that we need to take care of ourselves. “Stay safe!” is a constant comment that I hear near the end of many conversations. It’s very important for us to remain careful, as COVID numbers are increasing in our area at the present time.  However, Jesus wants us to remember that we do not live only for ourselves, but for God AND one another. We need to hear and live out Jesus’ “great commandment” to love God above all else and our “neighbor” as ourselves. When the previously mentioned lawyer asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus tells him the story of the “good Samaritan,” who unlike the priest and Levite, went out of his way to take care of a badly beaten man left for dead. (And this man was a Jew who probably viewed Samaritans as enemies.)

Our Savior, Jesus Christ, continues to tell us that our lives consist in reaching out to God and one another. And his words are verified by his loving example. He cured those who were afflicted with sickness and diseases. He miraculously fed the over five thousand people who heard his sermons into the evening. He challenged those who were bent on following rules rather than caring for those less fortunate. He died to show us how to live a God-filled life.

In our daily self-examination of our lives, may we hold on to Jesus’ “great commandment” of loving God and neighbor (and then, ourselves), and ask the Holy Spirit, God’s special Gift to us, who lives in us, to help us to be more like Jesus in the way we deal with and care for one another. In our highly individualistic world, this is often difficult to do, but with the help of God and one another, it’s very possible. If and when we fail, we can always ask God’s forgiveness and renew our resolve to make the spirit of love and fellowship more of a reality in our lives.

God deeply loves you and me! In God’s love, we are given many gifts to share with others, so that they may also realize that God loves them. Please think and pray about this and remember Jesus’ loving example of service to all of us. God bless you and yours, this day and always!

Fr. Jim Bernacki

7/31/2022, 9 AM Holy Eucharist

7/31/2022, 11:10 AM Holy Eucharist