When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 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.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”Whatever. That one word causes more damage today than most dismissive epithets I can come up with as I consider my own considerable library of cuss words, learned over a lifetime. Whatever is meant to signify "all included" and "bringing all into consideration." Nowadays, though, when accompanied by a huff and perhaps an eye roll it means just the opposite. It dismisses and diminishes. It presumes to indicate that the one offering this consideration could not care less. In fact, consideration and care are perhaps the farthest thing from that person's intent at that moment. Put a pause in for effect, with the added eye roll and you can add insult to injury.
Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question: “What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” He said to them, “How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”'?
If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?” No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions. Matthew 22:34-46
When we consider the last great test offered Jesus by the Pharisees as he teaches those around him, that contemporary word comes to mind as the very antithesis of Jesus' summation of Torah. When asked which commandment is most important (a softball question compared to previous weeks), Jesus replies with a paraphrase from the Levitical holiness code. Love God with all that you are, every strength you possess. While doing that, love your neighbor as you, your self.
He then checks their own understanding of the teaching. The test is not so much as to how they love God...but rather how they love their fellow human being. Leviticus tells us that how we treat, how we actively love, others is a direct testimony to our love of God.
That is the tough lesson for the day...beyond just allowing the summary commandments of loving God with "whatever" we possess and loving our neighbors as well...because loving is not just a state of mind. It is not a passive consideration of the other, or of the Divine. You see, God does not love passively. God, who is holy and dynamic and above all active, both IS love and DOES love. In fact, love is not a state for God, but the very manner of God being. If that is true, then loving is God's manifestation in and to creation itself. For God to hold back on loving, well, is for God to hold back on being God. Thus, with God being love itself, then our summons into relationship with God is to be loved by and in love with God with NO reservation. As well, that love then perforce must erupt into how we relate to each other in the light of God's love.
So, when that word, "whatever" is offered in contempt or dismissal it is the very obviation of the kind of love we are commanded to offer. It places conditions upon every aspect of our relationship with God and each other. It restricts us from being open to God, and to each other. It shuts down. It dismisses.
Instead of being the first notes in a chorus intended to praise God, love and the neighbor....it is a negation of every that God names as holy.
"Whatever" is a rebellion.
Giving that word up, though, is not enough. We also have to be willing to go into those places in our own hearts that are shuttered and closed...those places from which the impulse to say that word, to roll the eyes, to dismiss or degrade...and then open them to the light of God's love. We cannot continue, if we are to be faithful to God's call to serve the world in the name of Jesus Christ, to hold back, cast dismissive judgments or embrace contempt of our neighbor.
Love can heal a multitude of wounds....but only when we allow its balm to contact the wounds we keep hidden with "whatever" means we can muster.