Sunday readings reflection: Love is no piece of cake

A guest post by Megan Smith*

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Deuteronomy 6:2-6
Psalm 18:2-4, 47, 51
Hebrews 7:23-28
Mark 12:28-34

https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/103121.cfm

Many years ago, when I was maybe eight or so, I was passing out cake. I remember this not only because of my love of cake, but because as I was doing this my aunt commented, “that’s just the sort of person Megan is, she will always give someone else the larger piece of cake.” And this confused me. Mostly because I had been planning to take the biggest piece of cake for myself, though I of course quickly changed course once I heard my aunt’s admiring tone. Was it reverse psychology, or did my aunt truly see a kindness in me that I hadn’t yet recognized in myself? Either way, it set me on a path to be the sort of person who got that sort of admiring comment from my aunt, and to take on and learn more about sacrificial love, and to start always putting others before myself, and always giving the bigger pieces of cake to someone else. 

I have never been good with gradients, so eventually I found myself thoroughly and completely drained by these choices. Sacrificing to the point I had been neglecting my own needs, I became a husk of a person, who had several days where I felt like I couldn’t remember who I was or what I wanted for myself, and who thought their only value or purpose came from what I was willing to sacrifice for others. 

This was because I had not realized that it was never about the cake (a difficult conclusion to come to when you love cake). It’s about the relationship. And any relationship is richer when both individuals are happy, healthy, and whole. Twice in this week’s reading we are told that God doesn’t want sacrifices, He wants love; for Himself and for His creations (which includes me). 

The message is most clear when we are told “’to love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” It’s not about the cake. It can be about the smile you give when you pass someone the cake, or the laugh you share when they realize you kept the biggest slice for yourself, or the fact that you made the cake to begin with because you wanted to celebrate the person in front of you and make them happy—and you did. But compared to the moment shared between two people, the trust and love and relationships that can be built, the cake itself is insignificant. 

It’s about love. It has always been, and will always be, about love. And sometimes our love absolutely will lead us or even require us to give away the bigger piece of cake, to donate more of our paycheck than we keep for ourselves, or to spend a day in service to someone else without asking or wanting for anything in return because we recognize that this is what is needed by someone we have chosen to love (which of course can include a stranger we just met a moment ago, or someone we only know of by the circumstance they are in and may never meet or know any personal details about). But at the end of the day, it’s about putting more love into the world. At the end of the day, I think God is love, and He will always be pleased if we choose to act with love and compassion—to try to build a relationship with whoever is standing before us, to truly try to understand things from their perspective before forcing our own, to see what a person may need and be willing to be or offer that to them. 

This week we are told of Jesus: “He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself.” Absolutely! Let’s offer ourselves to others, in service and in love and with a willingness to truly connect and be with a person in the ways that they need. But let’s offer our best selves. You don’t need to give until you are broken and empty. And you are allowed to and encouraged to fill your own cup as well, and to love and build a relationship with yourself as well. You can do the same with yourself, examine and see what you need, and if it is the bigger piece of cake, I say this with all the love and earnestness in my heart: you are allowed to take it. Besides, I think you will find that the better you take care of yourself, the more you will have to give to others as well. 

In my opinion, all we are here to do is love. And if you do choose love, in all of its forms and complexities and requirements, then “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Dear Lord, fill my heart with your love. Help me to see those around me and to build connections with each of them. I will be and choose and offer love. To myself, to my neighbor, and to my God. And whatever cake I may make today, I will be sure to share it in some way that adds joy and love to Your world. Amen. 

*Megan Smith is editor and Web designer of Reflections from the Pew and yes, her aunt recognized her kindness all those years ago and that kindness continues to show itself today.

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