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Daily Devotional • February 17

Michael Smith
Back to Basics
A Reading from the Gospel of Mark 12:28-34

28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 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.’ 31 The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 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’; 33 and ‘to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 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. 

After the Second Vatican Council, Roman Catholic religious communities were asked to study and reflect on the charism or spiritual gift of their various founders. The idea was that renewal would be found by remembering and re-focusing on the original reason for their existence. They were asked to get back to their basics, which may have been forgotten over the centuries.

A slogan from the Protestant Reformation is that the Church must be reformed and always reforming. I think that is another way of saying that the Church is continually renewed when it gets back to its basics, which may have been forgotten over time.

In today’s gospel lesson, we hear Jesus recite the Jewish Shema: “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,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Now that’s getting back to basics.

Though close, the scribe had still not arrived at the kingdom of God. Why? I think it is because he failed to recognize Jesus as the Incarnate One. When we love God and our neighbor and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are truly returning to our basics and in turn are renewed.

Michael G. Smith served as bishop of North Dakota for 15 years and is currently the Assistant Bishop of Dallas. He works with the Navajoland Iona Collaborative and is a Benedictine Oblate and an enrolled member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.

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Today we pray for:

Church of the Ascension and Saint Agnes, Washington
The Diocese of Pittsburgh
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