The Greatest Commandment
One day after I celebrated the morning Mass, a woman approached me because she wanted my advise. According to her that she committed a grave sin because she violated the third commandment of God which is, “to keep holy the Lord’s Day.’ She told me that she missed the previous Sunday Mass since she could not leave her daughter who was badly ill at that day. I told her: “Ma’am, you would commit a mortal sin if you leave your ailing daughter and then go to Mass without somebody taking care for her.” But I still listen to her.
In today’s gospel, one of the scribes comes up to Jesus and asks Him an honest question that people also often ask: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Actually there are six hundred thirteen precepts and the scribes made it a lifetime practice to study these six hundred thirteen precepts of the Old Testament along with the numerous rabbinic commentaries. They make this question maybe to test and to see if Jesus correctly understands the law as they do. Or maybe the scribe is sincere too in asking such question because at the end he embraces Jesus’ answer and makes it as his own. Jesus surprises them with His profound simplicity and mastery of the law of God and its purpose. Here Jesus lays out plainly and simply, how we must live our lives: loving God with everything we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves. The love of God comes first and the love of neighbor is firmly grounded in the love of God.
The first part of Jesus’ answer is from the Book of Deuteronomy (6:4). This is called Shema or “Listen up!” This is important for the Jewish people because this is their morning and evening prayers. For them these are the words to live by as well as the words to die. This is the first sentence every Jewish child should memorize and the prayer every religious Jew hopes to have on their lips when they die.
The second part is taken from the Book of Leviticus (19:18). This second commandment is the manifestation of the first. There is an intimate connection between our love of God and love of our neighbor.
Christ gives us the two great commandments of love and calls us to live them but how? I read these three beautiful ways on how to live these commandments:
First, Love through obedience. God wants us to obey Him. The great opportunity to obey Him is here by doing what He gives us to do with all its ups and downs. God does not look at what actions we can carry out, rather, He looks to see if we are willing to submit our human will to His divine will. True love is shown by obedience.
Second, Love through charity. We Catholics are called to love God above all else and thus to love all men and women more than ourselves and without partiality. We cannot say that we 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. “What you do to the least of my brothers and sisters you do this to me,” He said. True love is shown by our charity.
Third, Love through prayer. We are reminded by the Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 2658) that “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. 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 love Christ is to become like Christ. To make this change takes prayer. Thus true lovers pray.