The Greatest Commandments
There is a lot of love in today’s readings. In the first reading, Moses tells God’s people to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. The second reading reminds us that Jesus gave himself as the perfect sacrifice for all of us, the source and summit of love. The responsorial psalm repeats, I love you, Lord, my strength. Finally in the Gospel, Jesus adds a new commandment, Love your neighbor as yourself.
God’s love is unconditional. God does not expect us to be perfect in order to earn his love. He freely gives it in spite of our faults, our imperfections, weaknesses, and sinfulness. God commands we do the same. He calls us to put him first in our lives, before our worldly goods, our ambitions and all that consumes our daily lives. Why is this such an important commandment? Well, it’s for our own good. Think of it this way, if we love anything or anyone more than our love of God then we’re making it into a false idol. A false idol which has no power to give us the strength we need to love like Jesus loves.
For today, let’s spend a few minutes giving some extra attention to both commandments. The commandment to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength…..and the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. On the surface, this seems an easy message to understand and to practice in our daily lives, but deeper reflection challenges us to rethink this. Love your neighbor as yourself is not a suggestion; it is a command. To be true followers of Christ requires we live out this command. The challenge comes when we answer the question, “Who is our neighbor?”
This is not a geographical question, but a theological one. Every human being is our neighbor, by virtue of being made in God’s image. In the end, it comes down to this: “love the ‘unlovable.’” Love those who are hard to love, those who have hurt us and those we just don’t like very much. Clearly, loving is not always easy. It requires forgiveness. It demands putting aside judgments and it forces us to reach beyond our own wants and needs to put others first. This isn’t easy to do, it’s so difficult that it requires God’s grace and our cooperation. If we love Jesus more than anything or anyone else…. if we love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, and with all our soul, and with all our strength then we will be filled with God’s superabundant strength to love others, even when it’s challenging and difficult to love the neighbor you despise.
In love, Fr Dave