Ex 22:20-26; 1Thess 1:5e-10; Matt 22:34-40
The central message of today’s gospel is about the two great commandments of love given by God to His people and is summarized by Jesus. These two shall never be separated from each because it has the same quality, meaning and implication.
Sad to say, we misinterpreted this thing called love. We abused, misused, overused and underused it. Because of love, many of our young ladies become dalagang ina (unwed mothers). Some got suicide because of love. It seems that it is now a requirement when you get married; a woman has to be pregnant first. It is like the song of Imelda Papin entitled Isang Linggong Pag-ibig. For me, I became a priest because I’m in love with a man. He’s so handsome and muscled body. It’s okay if a woman but a man. Don’t wrong me that I’m a sissy. I’m a real man. I’m in love with Jesus Christ, our Lord and God, that is why, I became a priest.
When I heard the word love, what immediately enters into my mind is the romantic love. If this is the kind of love that God wanted to be, then, I can make it, I can give love because I got so many girlfriends before I became a priest, even up to now. No, I am just joking. But this is not the one. It is more than this.
Actually, there are 613 commandments and of which 365 prohibitions and 248 other prescriptions. That is why the lawyer asked Jesus which of these 613 commandments is the greatest. Jesus summarizes these into two: Love your God which can be found in the book of Deuteronomy 6:5 and love your neighbor which can be found in the book of Leviticus 19:18 and 19:34.
By the phrase, “and the second is like it,” it means that all good works have value both as acts of love of God as acts of love of neighbor. It means too that they are not separated from each other. We can no longer speak of the one over the other. That there is a close connection between what we do to our neighbor whom we see and what we do to God whom we cannot see.
To love God is to give my total person to Him that includes my emotions, my consciousness, my instincts, my intellect and will and my body. But what is happening, it’s a 50-50 deal for the reasons that we have so many concerns and attachments. Christ is not our priority. He is just secondary. Anyway, my death will not come soon. I just come to Him when I’m in need or in trouble or when I have difficulties and problems. In this sense, Jesus is like an Automated Teller Machine (ATM), we come to Him when we are out of stock of wants and needs. Afterwards, when everything is fine, no more Jesus Christ. I don’t need Him anymore in my life.
But how and in what way can we love our God whom we do not see? It is through our neighbors. Thus, when a Christian serves the poor in the name of Christ, it is actually Christ our God, in and through us, who continues to touch and console the poor. Another one is, when the community of the Church, the people who believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and God, gathers for the celebration of the Eucharist, it is actually Jesus in His Spirit-filled community who offers Himself to the Father. To summarize it, we are the perfect sacrament of love of Jesus Christ.
But who are my neighbors? Is it the house near to my house too? May be, but those people who are in need of our material, emotional and spiritual helps. They are in need of our concern, care, love and compassion and this is a concrete manifestation of our love for God. It is through our neighbors whom we see.
For example, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, she expressed her love for God by serving the poorest of the poor and the most abandoned people in the society that she was in. Another one was Fr. Damien of Molokai, Hawaii. He expressed his love for God by caring the lepers of Molokai by which towards the end of his life, he became a leper himself.
Therefore love of God and love of neighbor are identical twins I would say. They could not be separated and one could not exist without the other. Whether we like it or not, we have to accept the two as part of our lives. Can we do this?
This love of God and love of neighbor is symbolized by the two beams of the cross. It is our call to balance the vertical dimension of our relationship with God in prayer and sacrifices with the horizontal dimension of our relationship with others in mutual and loving service. So, if we take away the vertical dimension or detach either beam, you’ll obtain neither love of God nor love of neighbor, there is no sign of the cross and we are not true Christian Catholics.
I end this with the prayer of Fr. Fred Reyes, SVD: “God, our heavenly Father, instill in my heart this Great Commandment, so that I can follow more closely in the footsteps of your Son, our Lord. Mary, my beloved Mother, show me the way to love God and my neighbor.”
See Today’s Readings: Cycle A