"You are not far from the Kingdom of God." Mk 12:34
When one of the scribes is able to appreciate Jesus' wisdom and agree with the Lord that to love God completely and our neighbors as ourselves is the essence of the law, Jesus tells him that he is not far from the reign of God. It seems like a strange compliment, until we realize that while the scribes were likely to know the law and prophets well, they were often more interested in getting the law "right" than living the law well. While a deep knowledge of the law is an important foundation for our spiritual lives, it is no substitute for a life of love and service in the world.
Last week I was speaking with a priest friend about the saints we have known. Almost all of them were lay people. It was not that we were discounting the holiness of priests and religious we knew, but were clearly more touched and challenged by the integrity and faith we encountered in the people we had been sent to serve. Not incidentally, the people we both knew were not scholars, but parents, husbands and wives, grandparents and even some children. What they shared in common was their fidelity in the face of very long odds. They had faced sickness, death, and poverty with courage and honesty. They did not whine about how God had dealt them a poor hand, but were grateful for the God who had accompanied them in their struggles.
Jesus was tough on the Scribe, not because he lacked insight, but because he seemed only to know the law but said nothing about living it. He will be hard on us for the same reasons. In Lent we try to recommit ourselves to prayer, almsgiving and fasting because they are practices that put the law into action in our lives.
Today, ask God to help you know and live the law of Christ more deeply.
Who is the holiest person you know? Why?