Does God ask us to do something impossible? Does He command us to do the impossible?

Earlier in the Liturgy we heard this: “A lawyer asked [Jesus] a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 

What does it mean to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind?

Let’s consider God’s love for us. We Orthodox Christians believe that the very fact of our existence is an indication of God’s love, because God was self-sufficient. He had no need for us, yet He created us to be His companions. . And then we believe that God’s ongoing care for us reveals His love. Psalm 8 asks, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them?” We are small, yet He watches over us. We believe that the incarnation of His Son reveals His love. ““For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).  We read about the extent of His love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). To me, this is the message of the Cross, Jesus laying down His life for His friends. And then in St. Paul’s words, “God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He died for us, though we did not deserve this. 

No human comes close to this kind of love. We are not in God’s league. But it’s worse than that.  Consider this:  If I told you that Taylor Swift was coming to our church next Sunday, the church would be packed from 9:00 am.  But instead, it’s only God coming to spend time with us. He’s here every Sunday, no big deal, and we come whenever we feel like it. 

I am guilty: if I truly loved God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind, then I would probably spend more time reading the Bible than I do reading newspapers and doing puzzles and watching baseball. 

Within the Old Testament is a book known as “Song of Songs,” which is a romantic poem with little mention of God. The reason why it is in the Bible at all is because of its portrayal of love as an all-consuming energy. Loving “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” is or should be an all consuming energy. 

I know that I am not there yet; my hunch is that neither are you. 

Religion is often presented as a set of do’s and don’ts. It’s not. In the context of today’s gospel reading, this encounter of Jesus and a lawyer  took place after the events of Palm Sunday. The lawyer’s question was one in a series of “gotcha” questions designed to challenge the Lord, to make Him look bad to the Roman or the religious authorities and thus, to discredit Him, or worse, to give them a reason to arrest Him. 

Anyone who has ever read the books of Leviticus or Deuteronomy knows how many detailed instructions are included in them. At another time the Lord had stated,  “Till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:18). But in today’s encounter He chose to present a simpler way of understanding the commandments. It was simple; at the same time it was and is overwhelming. 

God calls us to love Him at all times and places and with all our being. Does He ask us to do the impossible? What I value in the Orthodox Christian Tradition is its realism. It presents the ideal, but it accepts the real. It presents the goal, that we be “children of the light and of the day,” but it accepts that each one of us is a work in progress. Bishop Gerasimos of Abydos writres, “The Church is the workshop of the Holy Spirit.” God is still working on me and on you. 

But this does not relieve us of our responsibility to work harder on ourselves. To pray each and every day without exception, to pray longer, to read the holy Scriptures, to serve God by serving others, and to worship Him each and every Sunday. 

Does God ask us to do something impossible?  He asks us to keep trying till we get it right.