The Greatest Commandment
The Pharisees pride themselves that they know the law and their ritual requirements. They made it a life-time practice to study the six hundred and thirteen precepts of the Old Testament along with the numerous rabbinic commentaries. Jesus, in today’s gospel reading, is asked which of these six hundred thirteen precepts, is the greatest commandment and Jesus speaks the two great commandments of love. By quoting Deuteronomy 6:4-5, He says that the first commandment is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength,” (v. 29). And by quoting Leviticus 19:18, He says that the second commandment is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (v. 31).
So in other words, what God always asks for is love. When we love, we offer the best of ourselves. We grow and become better persons. He demands love not because He needs it but because it is what is best for us.
But, how can we love God and our neighbor? I read a good answer to this question that we can love by: First is love through Obedience. God wants us to obey Him not in another way of life but here and now and in what God gives us to do, with all its ups and downs. We are willing to submit our human will to His divine will. True love is shown by obedience. Fenelon had similar words about this by saying: “It is not the multitude of hard duties; it is not constraint and contention that advance us in our Christian course. On the contrary, it is the yielding of our wills without restriction and without choice, to tread cheerfully every day in the path in which Providence leads us, to seek nothing, to be discouraged by nothing, to seek out duty in the present moment, to trust all else without reserve to the will and power of God.”
Second is love through Charity. We are called to love God above all else, and to love our neighbor more than themselves and without partiality. This love includes our families, enemies like: our boss at work, the competitors, someone who stole from us and so on. Somebody had said that we cannot love God if we do not live charity beyond the boundaries of our comfort zone. God is radical and calls us to love Him in others. True love is shown by our charity. If there is any doubt all we need to do is to look at Christ. John Wesley said: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Third is love through Prayer. Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2658) says: “Love is the source of prayer.… It enables us to respond to Him by loving as He has loved us.” To love God we need to obey and to love others more than ourselves; however, this is impossible without prayer. Somebody said that if prayer enables us to respond, it is only because prayer is where we transform our wills. Becoming like Christ is the purpose of prayer. To pray, without conforming our decisions to God’s will, is only to indulge in nice feelings or mere self-contemplation and this is not prayer. True prayer is founded on love, and involves us striving to become like Christ, making our will, mind and heart like His. To love Christ is to become like Christ. To make this change takes prayer. Thus true lovers, pray.
At the end, in his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote, “Do not waste your time bothering whether you love your neighbor act as if you did. As soon as we do this, we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less.”
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