Out of the Weeds

BY KATIE LACZ | November 5, 2018
Sunday’s Readings

As a cradle Catholic and a type A personality, I am—perhaps not shockingly—a rule-follower. Please give me a set of guidelines: I will abide by them. Don’t worry about repercussions; if I fail, trust me, I will punish myself quite well. Rules are the only thing standing between us and the great abyss of chaos that threatens at all times. Right?

Unfortunately, this kind of attitude means I get a little lost in the weeds sometimes. As a parent, it can manifest itself as obsessing over how many vegetables I can get into a preschooler who insists he just doesn’t like food, or banning my infant from owning toys with batteries, or scolding my spouse for using disposable diapers when we have perfectly good cloth ones around that won’t contribute to the growing Pacific Garbage Patch. (You can imagine that this makes me a delight to live with.)

In the section of Mark’s Gospel leading up to Sunday’s Gospel, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes are trying to get Jesus lost in the weeds with them, too. They attempt to catch him with trick questions about taxes and remarriage and other issues within the hundreds of commandments of the Torah.

But the scribe’s question in the Gospel cuts through the rules and the lists and asks us to get to the heart of what our relationship with God is about: What is the greatest commandment?

The answer? Ultimately, it’s not a rule, it’s a relationship: Love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus makes it clear that the two are inseparable.

One translation of St. Ignatius’ First Principle and Foundation, in the Spiritual Exercises, captures this idea another way: I am from love, of love, for love.”

We are from Love, which is, of course, another name for God.

We are of love: Created in God’s image, love is at the heart of who we are and what animates us. We live, move, and breathe in God’s love.

We are for love: Our divine purpose is to make God’s love more fully present around us. Neighbor by neighbor. Picky toddler by picky toddler. Person seeking refuge by person seeking refuge.  

If we can remember this, we can find our way out of the rule-ridden weeds and into the spacious place that Love provides. In that place, we get to see what God’s love looks like lived out: like justice for the oppressed. Like freeing others from the forces that enslave them. Like a table big enough for all to be fed. That spacious place is where we draw close to the kingdom of God: not by following the rules perfectly, but by loving wholeheartedly.

For reflection: When do I let rules get in the way of relationships? Who is the neighbor I find difficult to love? What is one concrete action I can take to show my love for them?

6 replies
  1. Mary Frances Burke
    Mary Frances Burke says:

    This is wonderful! and I can so identify as a mother of 5 and grey haired grandmother of 2 and yes, rule follower. My enthusiasm is especially tweaked by the challenge in the reflection questions. My husband and I work in the Marriage Encounter Ministry and write for the blog TheCouplesPost.org. We will use them for our personal dialogue and prayer this week. Thank you!

    • Katie Lacz
      Katie Lacz says:

      Thank you, Mary Frances, for your kind words. I’m so glad you were able to use the questions in your ministry!

  2. Eileen Steinle Alexander
    Eileen Steinle Alexander says:

    Dear Katie,
    Thank you very much for clearly articulating scripture. I’ve just returned from Jerusalem where the intent of the New Testament feels so real! I’ll carry your words with me, and work for deeper relationships.

    Thanks, also, for your wonderful personal observations. I think I am your soul sister : ) If it is of some comfort, I’ve found as a parent and educator that reasonable rules also create a safe space of increased freedom for experience. One’s charges know that if they stray too far beyond the boundaries, strong arms will pull them back inside. They also see fairness work. On a final note, my little ones have become wonderful young women.

    • Katie Lacz
      Katie Lacz says:

      Eileen – thank you! And yes, absolutely about appropriate rules/boundaries. Like you said, I think they give a safe space for children to explore and get creative within them. It’s an ongoing journey to provide that support and structure for our little ones. 🙂


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