We were reminded on a recent Sunday of one of the greatest commandments from the Gospel of Mark:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
Men, this is difficult to truly embrace. When you think about it realistically, there are so many things and people that we strongly love in the same way. Okay, even if we are okay with letting some material objects go (do you really love your car that much?) how can we love anything more that our wife? How about our children? Our parents? I anxiously await seeing my children at the end of the day when I get back from work. I cherish times my parents come to visit. For those of us that finished Exodus 90, a lot of time and energy is spent on loving others more. We all spend time and work on loving our wife and children more as it seems that after work and other life responsibilities, they unfortunately get what we have left over. Regarding loving my wife, I work really hard on serving her and on self-sacrifice to put her needs before mine. There are times when I fall and let her down and there are times when she lets me down. When these times occur, we are weakened and it is a great time for the Enemy to get a hold on you. You may feel despair, hopelessness, or a drop in self-esteem. You may think, “I’m doing as much as I can. What else can I do? I will never be good enough. I will never be loved and no one will love me.” Does this sound familiar? Have you heard this old song and dance before?
How about my parents? In our society, it is all too common to have problems loving our parents. As men, we all have some sort of wound from our parents. Many of us have that wound from our father. According to Wild at Heart by John Eldredge, as little boys we all have a question on our hearts that we want our father to answer. We desperately want to know, “do we have what it takes to be a man?” Unfortunately, by strong words – or lack of them – our fathers answer that question for us. For many men, that answer was “No. You will never have what it takes.” Many men look for the answer to that question in many other places. For some of us it is in drugs and alcohol. For a growing percentage of us it is in pornography. Time and time again we will be disappointed with the answer these paths give us. What about when a father abandons his family? What is the family to do? What are the children to do?
No matter how much time and energy you spend on changing yourself, you cannot change other people. If your wife leaves the marriage despite your efforts to want to repair things, you cannot change her. If someone wrongs you gravely but seeks out reconciliation, that person still has the potential to fall back into sin and cause harm again. We are all sinners and we need the grace of God through the Church and the sacraments to pick ourselves back up again and again.
So why should we follow God’s commandment since it is so difficult to do? We should because God is love. He will never abandon us. He will never disappoint us. He is always there and before we were even born He loved us and knew us. Jesus Christ is ultimately our strength. He is what we ultimately depend on. He is existence itself. He gives us what we want, not what we need like a loving parent and Father does. He ultimately IS the answer we all seek. When our human relationships let us down, He will be there not only to pick us back up, but to comfort and console us. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Therefore He is ultimately deserving of our deepest love. He wants us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.