When we love someone and want to grow closer to them, we try to get to know them better. We wonder about their lives. We observe how they speak; how they act and react. We ask about their families, their occupations. We consider their thoughts, feelings, preferences, and priorities. As we understand them more, our love for them often grows.
The same applies to the most important relationship we can have—the more we seek out information about God, and a deeper understanding of God, the greater our love will be for God.
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” —Matthew 22:36-38
This exchange between Jesus and a scholar of Jewish religious law who was “testing” him, is familiar to Christians, mostly for the “Golden Rule” portion about loving your neighbor as yourself. But what about the first part, specifically the command to love God with “all your mind?” What does that really mean and look like in practice?
This isn’t a burdensome command, especially if we approach it with our God-given curiosity leading the way. Consider any topic that you’re passionate about—whether it’s football, fine art, fashion or farming. Don’t you just love talking, reading, and exploring it in different ways? Isn’t it easy to lose yourself in studying the newest techniques and tools—to look up from your workbench or magazine or desktop to find that hours have passed, and you’ve scarcely noticed? As a gardener, I can hardly wait to dive into the seed catalogs and gardening guides that begin to arrive in the winter to learn about the latest varieties and horticultural findings!
Many practices help us to love God “with all our mind.” We can read the Bible and educate ourselves about the teachings of Jesus and the Church. We can try to really listen to sermons and speakers, and to respectfully question and seek clarification. We can work to find God’s reflection in those around us and understand and mindfully embrace the traits and truths they share. All are ways we come to love God more by using our minds—the intellect with which we are blessed.
We Franciscans like to follow our patron’s lead by taking this one step further. If nature is indeed the “first bible”—the first act of divine self-revelation (see Psalm 19:1)—then part of loving God with all your mind is allowing your curiosity to lead you to learn more about Creation. In my opinion, the best way to do that is to go outside and experience the natural world. Touch, smell, listen and look—and if you’re a gardener, like I am, maybe even taste a little! We are just a small part of this marvelous planet we call Home—a divine speck in this wonderful universe filled with interconnected elements, flora and fauna. Ask questions about how it all works and the impact we’re having on it. Love God with all your mind by seeking answers, through Creation, and responding in love to what you find.