How many of you have the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 plus? It’s a testimony to the marketing and ingenuity of Apple that for their fans and customers, from the announcement of the next version of their product to the day of release causes such anticipation. Some of them describe this random Friday when the phones are released each September like Christmas morning. People stand in line for hours (in some places even days) to make sure they are able to purchase one before they run out of stock, which amazingly happens the first weekend they go on sale every year!
Part of the genius that makes the launch of each new iPhone is that they keep tweaking it each year. New features - different capabilities. So one year they added a camera not only on the one side, but the other side as well (making "Selfie’s" possible) another year they added something that the button on the bottom of the phone can scan your thumb so no one can use it but you. Another year they offered the phone in white and gold which really got people excited for some reason.
This past year though, something that was somewhat hysterical happened (actually, truth be told it’s a mean trick, and had I fallen prey to it I would probably wouldn’t think it was hysterical, but...) with the release of this new iPhone, there was an advertisement floating online that promised Apple users that they could wirelessly re-charge their battery by placing it in a microwave. It looked just like an Apple promotion - with the pictures, fonts, everything resembling a typical ad by Apple and it was billed as the "Next Big Thing" and it was called WAVE. The ad said: Wave is our latest and greatest addition which allows your device to be charged through any standard household microwave. The ios8 contains new drivers that interface with your device’s radio-baseband allowing it to synchronize with microwave frequencies and use them to recharge your battery. Then it added for more authenticity: 60 seconds for microwaves at 300 w frequencies. 70 seconds at 800 w - DO NOT WAVE-CHARGE FOR OVER 300 seconds.
It was a terrible hoax that unfortunately pictures that popped up on twitter and the internet of burned melted phones showed it was believed to be true by too many people. Even the Los Angeles Police Department had to send a tweet out warning people "DO NOT MICROWAVE YOUR IPHONES." What made people fall for it? I’m sure that some people just naively believed that perhaps this truly was the next big thing (how that’s possible since practically every human being who’s ever operated a microwave knows not to put anything metallic in it, but I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt) Most likely, people so wanted it to be true that they bought into it hook, line and sink - or in this case - Fry (as in the iphone getting fried on the inside). The need to plug the stupid thing into the wall for two hours to recharge it - that’s too long - we need it now.
No matter how evolved, advanced, as a society we’ve become as humanity, it seems somewhat in our DNA that we’re often looking for a short-cut. The faster, more efficient option. Why read a whole book when you can read cliffs notes (or for you kids these days, wikipedia probably has a free summary online). We tend to want to cut to the chase; get to the point; not waste time.
That has a way of entering into all parts of our lives - even our spiritual lives as well. Which is what is happening in today’s Gospel. We’ve been hearing this back and forth dialogue/debate/inquisition between Jesus and the Pharisees for a couple of weeks now from the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus has been answering with parables - each time trying to probe them to go deeper. Recognizing that they had been experts in the law of God - they had a lot of head smarts - he basically is trying to get them to expand their hearts more. To recognize perhaps they didn’t have "it" as much as they thought they had.
Which is why today’s question is so interesting. After all this back and forth the Pharisee comes forward and basically is trying to bypass that reflection Jesus is inviting them to partake in - he’s not interested in stories, or riddles or parables. He’s a lawyer. He’s fixated on the law. He wants to just get down to basics. "Which is the greatest commandment of the law?" To give you a hint, he was expecting Jesus to pick one from among 613 commandments of the law that had made the people of Israel - God’s People...
Pick one... now. Nice, efficient. Whether he sincerely desired an answer out of his own curiosity to see if Jesus’ opinion aligned with his or was trying to trap him as well - we don’t know his heart. But despite the desire for a quick and easy answer, Jesus hits him - and us - with quite a punch:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all you mind... This is the greatest and first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbor as yourself.
Just think about what Jesus is saying to us. He’s not giving an answer that allows any of us to pick and choose what we think is most important. He’s not saying here’s the fastest, most direct way to make God happy. If anything it’s even more demanding. It’s all consuming. But there’s something amazingly beautiful in Jesus’ response. He’s saying to the Jews - you know why my Father has engaged you - given you all these laws in the first place; added to them as you grew and multiplied and things got more complicated as a result; seemingly hounded you through the prophets when you fell away? It’s because HE loves YOU - with ALL HIS HEART, WITH ALL HIS SOUL, WITH ALL HIS MIND. And how do I know that - because that’s why I’m here... that’s what my mission in life, even in my death - and ultimately in my resurrection - to demonstrate this truth.
Sadly, we need to have this reminder. It’s true - there are some who come to Mass week after week to fulfill a duty, thinking they’ve gotten something off their checklist and "made sure the man upstairs is happy" - while leaving this place and seemingly no different for the hour they’ve been here. It’s true there are some who think they never need to worship thinking "so long as I’m a good person that’s what matters the most." I’m thinking of that guy a few years ago who made headlines with his rap you-tube saying "Why I hate religion but love Jesus." Can we truly differentiate religion and Jesus? There’s a reason we have both. The law – or all of the laws – were not set up to hinder our walk with Jesus. God never meant for us to be imprisoned with "you have to do this" or "you better not do that" but to live life abundantly. Which is what Jesus came to bring us: Freedom. We have true Freedom when we have a relationship with Christ. That’s what Jesus is getting at in this discussion with the young lawyer. When we love God and love others as ourselves, we fulfill the 613 laws established. The problem comes when we realize we can't do it. Our sin nature gets in the way no matter how hard we try to be good. But the point is – we have to at least try – we have to at least be desiring that, moving in that direction.
For us to fulfill the law, the commandments, to be good "Catholics" - there’s no short cut, there’s no "minimum requirements to be fulfilled’ other than giving back to God what He has given to us - our whole hearts, our souls, our minds. What would that look like in your life? Would it be a huge change or a bit of tweaking here and there? We were created to glorify God with all we are, think and do. Praising and worshiping him here at Mass is one thing we do to honor God. What can we do with the other 167 hours per week? Jesus isn’t trying to overwhelm us or be demanding. He’s doing the complete opposite. He’s inviting us to expand our vision, expand our lives, expand our hearts – share our hearts – with the one that created them in the first place – with Him who loved us into existence. We find that when we do, there’s no fast, easy, expedient way of dealing with God – but that’s the point… when you love someone, truly love someone, you don’t want to take a short cut in the first place; You want to spend every moment with them – even eternity. Makes sense, don’t you think?