Text: Mark 12:28-44
Like a lot of you, we took family trips when I was a kid. My favorite trip by far was the one we took to Glacier National Park in Montana. Just beautiful: the mountains, clear water, hiking trails, and wildlife….just how do mountain goats end up in those remote, hard to reach places? My dad loved being active during trips like these, and he especially liked to hike. However, at the end of our two week trip, we when dad suggested “just one more hike,” my mom and sisters flatly said “no.” They were going to stay with the camper in the Visitor Center’s parking lot, and that was that. So my dad looks at me and says, “well, I suppose the two of us should get going.” So much for my choice in the matter. So my dad and I grabbed a few granola bars and some water and headed out on a short, two hour hike.
About an hour into the hike, dad decided it was time to loop back around and head back towards our starting point. So we did, and the second hour passed…..and then the third hour….and the fourth, and finally after five hours, we finally made it back to the Vistor’s Center parking lot. My sisters and mom gave made fun of my dad and I for getting lost, and naturally my dad knew their had to be some explanation….so he looked at the map. It turned out that there was small fork in the road, and had we veered to the right instead of the left, we were only about 100 yards from our original starting point. Unfortunately, we stayed left one too many times, and so we were left….despite not being too far from the Vistor’s Center.
“You are not very far off from the Kingdom of God.” Jesus replies to the scribe after an exchange about the Greatest Commandment and what fulfilling it means for a person. I find it interesting that Jesus didn’t say to him that living out the Greatest Commandment got him ENTIRELY into the Kingdom of God. No matter how much effort, all the striving to fulfill it, one would still fall short of the Kingdom of God. And if that’s true, I wonder how many of us feel more like the widow who puts her last two coins in the treasury today. We give and give, strive to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and try to love our neighbors as much as humanly possible, right down to our last penny. In fact, we strive in our lives, in keeping the church going, in doing ministry, and perhaps we give to the point where there’s nothing left for us to give and we’re left depleted and exhausted. And when we don’t see any results from those efforts, from that striving, we’re left discouraged and more than a little crushed.
Father Gregory Boyle is a Jesuit Priest who started Homeboy Ministries in Southern California as a way to keep kids away from gangs. Homeboy Ministries give kids an alternative to the gang life – violence, drugs, entrapment that leads to death. Father Boyle is quite literally saving lives. And he was asked about that in a recent article, what it felt like to be saving so many lives. Father Boyle quickly replied that he doesn’t consider it saving lives, in fact he doesn’t even like thinking of it that way. Saving lives and saving the world, he says, only leads to one place – burnout. Those who try to save the world and help make it a better place give and give right down to their last penny and beyond….and then walk away in exhaustion, and discouragement as they realize their efforts are never complete or reach the lofty goals they set.
Father Boyle says we should savor the world instead. The point is to share and give of our selves and allow others to give back to us. It is being gracious enough to receive others in our midst. Savoring life, Father Boyle says, is about experiencing amazement and joy in the world around us by simply being engaged in the here and now – to be engaged with others and ourselves in the present, in the moment. If we can do that, then we will receive the gift of God’s joy; that’s how lives are transformed.
The question then for us today is: do we save the world or savor it? Do we save others in our lives, as the church, in ministry, or do we savor such things? Do we allow ourselves to be present with others and with God in the here and now, in the moment?
Here’s the thing: we don’t have to save the world at all. We don’t because there is One who has come who has done the saving FOR US, and who SAVORS US…..Christ loves us. We’re not that far off from the Kingdom of God because in Christ, the Kingdom of God has been brought not just near to us, but we find ourselves standing in it. We’re freed from the discouragement of our past or what we face in the future. We only need to be present in the here and now with our loved ones and in our work. We simply stay engaged in the moment as the church and in ministry to others. We simply savor life….because God in Christ savors us. Amen.