Many of us older folks will remember that line from the 1970’s show, Kojak, starring Telly Savalas (who used to always have a Tootsie pop in his mouth when he said this!). I was reminded of this phrase when I read today’s gospel reading from Mark about the two greatest commandments - “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second greatest commandment was “You shall love neighbor as yourself.”
I’m always intrigued by the second commandment. It implies that one loves oneself. But, what if I’m a person who always puts myself down? Or if I am highly critical of everything that I do? Or if I am someone who has never really gotten to know myself to love myself? Or what if I’m a perfectionist and nothing ever satisfies me? That will be a very interesting way of living out this love of neighbor commandment! It seems like the step before I extend love to a neighbor is to evaluate the quality of love that I have for myself. Because if the the love I have for myself is rooted in being overly critical, disappointment, or perfection, then what kind of love am I extending to my neighbor as a result? Was that the kind of love Jesus was asking for in this commandment? Or was he looking for something a bit more unconditional?
Regarding the first commandment, it begs the question: have I ever loved with my whole heart, with my whole soul, with my entire mind, and with my entire strength? Who have I loved that way? Am I even able to extend that kind of love that goes to such extreme? What does it look like to offer such love? Can I offer that kind of love to myself? What would you be like if you loved yourself with your whole heart, your whole soul, your entire mind, and your entire strength?? After all, isn’t that where our creator resides? In us?
By virtue of the fact that our higher power resides in us and has given us life demonstrates that we are worthy of being loved in such a way, and have such supreme value! Nothing is held back! Heart, soul, mind and strength are given to their fullest...and with great hope, potential and life!
The Tootsie pop was filled with a soft, chewy center that people loved. If I focus my love on being expressed through disappointment, criticism or perfection, then maybe I need to sit down with my own “tootsie pop” and start eating away at the hard shell so that I can get to the center that is filled with an entire heart, mind, soul, strength, and love. Maybe then, you and I will find the answer to “Who loves ya, baby??”