When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested Him by asking, "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 first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments." (Mat 22 34-40)
Love of God and neighbor was the soul of the Covenant Yahweh had made with his Chosen People. Failure to love in practice was a betrayal of the Covenant and resulted in the creation of victims inflicted by man himself against the various sectors of society (see Today's First Reading). All the prophets kept reminding the people about it.
The synthesis of the two loves is also the soul of the New Covenant established by Christ and sealed in his blood. It embodies all the essential requirements of the Old Law, but it is much more demanding because it is situated in the new setting of the Kingdom, and is patterned after the example of Jesus. He is the perfect example of how we should love God and men for He lived the demands of the two loves with an intensity and a totality that cost Him His very life.
Love of God and neighbor is really the “essence of Christianity.” It is the golden rule of life which guides all believers in building up the Kingdom both in themselves and around them.
These two loves are prioritized but also complementary – none of the two is perfect without the other. Love of God is number one. It grounds and gives meaning to the love of neighbor. It keeps all the elements of the construction together. But love for God finds its necessary and most challenging manifestation in the love for neighbor, as Jesus showed us through his life and death.
Two loves, one heart, one attitude, then. These two related loves should never be dissociated, never opposed. St. John – no doubt echoing his Master – spelled out their relatedness and complementariness when he stated, “If anyone says, ‘My love is fixed on God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. One who has no love for the brother he sees, cannot love the God he does not see” (1 Jn 4:20). Therefore, “Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn 4:21).
It is only by keeping these commandments together and living them out, day by day as Jesus did, that the Kingdom grows and becomes ever more an integral part of our life.
And once we become the living realization of what all human beings are called to be, the Kingdom expands even beyond us, for the good tends to grow under the power of God’s grace.
To a finite world perverted by materialism, hedonism and superstition, the Gospel reminds the absolute primacy of God and the duty to love Him to the utmost. To societies brutalized by selfishness, greed, aggressiveness, and injustice of all kinds, the Gospel offers the only lasting solution in the sincere love of neighbor exemplified by Christ.
Whenever these gifts are accepted and lived out, God’s plan for mankind becomes a wonderful reality. Then people begin to experience already on earth a foretaste of the contentment and fulfillment that characterizes heaven.
EUCHALETTE 26 October 2008
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