Marcey Colanero Sullivan ‘91
Michael Sullivan ’90, Senior Director of Alumni Programs, NDAA
There’s nothing like first things first! Jesus doesn’t pull any punches when he is asked, “Which commandment is the first of all?” He answers with the most essential instructions he can give us: to love God and ourselves.
But because these commandments are the “first of all” doesn’t mean they are easy! Love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? This seems like an unreasonable command.
How can we focus so completely on one thing? That takes a kind of concentration and single-mindedness that just doesn’t seem possible. The demands of life have most of us going in a million directions. And in these uncertain times in our country, many of us succumb to the anxiety and distractions of the 24-hour news cycle. Sometimes it feels like there just isn’t enough left to devote all of ourselves to God.
And, if that wasn’t hard enough, Jesus adds to it: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Why couldn’t he just have left it at “love your neighbor”? It’s the love of self that gets tricky for most of us. Spend any amount of time on social media and we can very easily step onto the slippery slope of self-loathing. It’s so easy to be dissatisfied with our lives when we constantly see our value only in comparison to what others choose to share with us. Self-loathing leads us to resent others—contrary to Jesus’ teaching here. Our own brokenness too often leads to amity, conflict, and eventually alienation from others and God.
So how do we get back to basics? How do we make first things first? The clarity that comes from single-mindedness can help us remember we are children of God, made in God’s image and likeness. When we are focused on our relationship with God, we have a chance to remember that we have an unlimited worth, value, and dignity, which frees us to love others more generously. What’s not to love about that?
Lent can be an opportunity for us to focus on the essentials of our faith and turn away from the distractions of our world. With a renewed focus on prayer, fasting and almsgiving, the 40 days of Lent call us back to a relationship with God in which we can be “all-in” with heart, mind, soul, and strength.