The word “must” stands out to me as the translation in Matthew’s gospel echoes the words from Deuteronomy 6.5. This gives an indication that the imperative to love God is not an optional extra or a nice ideal but the central teaching of all scripture. In saying that we are called to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our understanding we start to gain a glimpse of what is at the heart of religious life. This is not just following a law to love but rather finding the heart of God that is always turned outward towards the love of another.
Unpacking each of these elements we start to see that the three elements are wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. By learning things by heart, we are not just called to a rote way of living but rather an appreciation of applying what we have learned to the situation in which we live. At the heart of wisdom is the ability to notice what is necessary for this moment and this time. What might fit for one person or culture may not be appropriate for another. It is a call to be immersed into the culture with the heart of God that seeks to inculturate the Gospel for others.
In a similar way, our understanding is a willingness to commit our life to God and others not just to do our own thing. This commitment helps to notice that our life has an influence on others and can transform their life by witnessing to what God has entrusted us. This is calling us not to be alienated from God or from each other. We are called to be soulful in the way we are present to God’s grace that lies at the heart of our creation.
Then we apply our minds and our strength to how God is manifest in daily life. This is not thinking God into being but rather noticing how our belief in God shapes our way of being present to the world. There is an integration of belief that builds on solid foundations. It helps us to recognise the language with which God has written the universe that is writ large for those who seek what sustains life. We are called to be people of faith and reason. Detectives of God in a world that seeks light over darkness, substance over triviality, and depth over dissipation.
Fr. John Armstrong
“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)