I preach most Sundays. We all have moments in life where our own lives seem strange to us, and when I think about my life it usually seems a little strange to me that I do this thing of giving sermons almost every week. Almost every Sunday I’m there in church with a word for the people. The clock keeps ticking and the calendar keeps turning, and Sunday never fails to come when I’ll get up behind the pulpit and preach. The average person speaks between 125 to 150 words a minute. Most of my sermons last around 15 minutes which means most of my sermons are at least 2000 words long. If I preach 45 sermons a year it means I’ve shared 90,000 words in sermons during that year. Most who know me know I’m not the most talkative person in the world, so it’s surprising to me that so many words come out of my mouth each year to people gathered in worship.
A monk went to Basil of Caesarea asking for a word, and Basil told him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart.” The monk went away but came back to Basil 20 years later saying he’d tried to keep that word and wanted another. Basil said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” That’s all of 18 words in 20 years. You know that Basil isn’t the first to give these answers; Jesus suggested, reflecting a popular answer of his time, that these were the two most important commandments. I don’t know if I can improve upon Basil’s suggestions. Basil’s two sermons of 18 words are maybe all we need.
Do you want a word for your life? Do you want some direction for living? Hear Basil’s words to the other monk. Love God, not as an afterthought but with a whole-hearted love. Work on that one for 20 years. If, after those 20 years you need another word, then hear his advice to love your neighbor with the same love you have for yourself.
"In drawing up its regulations, we hope to set down nothing harsh, nothing burdensome." - Rule of St. Benedict