Every Sunday at about 8:01am, I stand before a faithful crowd of about 70 and say these words:
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets. (Mt. 22:37-40 quoted in the BCP, p. 324)
After almost a decade of serving a congregation that didn’t have a Rite I service, I confess that I don’t have all of the Rite I service committed to memory. For some reason, I can’t get the absolution to stick, and Eucharistic Prayer I is way too long, but the one thing that I’m sure is in there and will never go away are this Summary of the Law. In Rite I, it is beautiful and the “thous” and “thys” flow effortlessly off my lips. After the Gloria and the Collect of the Day, I find my way to the Celebrant’s chair and I often think to myself, “if only it were that simple.”
If ever there was a perfect example of the idiom, “easier said than done,” it would the Summary of the Law that we will hear Jesus give to the Pharisaical Canon Lawyer at the height of his ongoing conflict with the Temple leadership. Think for a moment about the world the way it is. Think of the partisanship, the vitriol, and the hoarding of resources. Think of the growing number of natural disasters, the 22 veterans who commit suicide each day, and the millions of children who go to be hungry. Think of all the ways that we fall short of the glory of God, and then think about how different this world would be if every one of us were to take seriously the commandments of our Lord to love God and love neighbor.
This side of the Second Coming, it will never be that simple. Perhaps better said, it will be impossibly simple to live into these commandments. Simple, because we were created to be in perfect relationship with God. Impossible, because sin is infectious, the tempter is everywhere, and we are not able to do it on our own. Still, every Sunday, I will stand and affirm before God and the faithful at 8am that on these two impossibly simple commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.