Reflection on Matthew 22: 34-40
In this gospel, Matthew reports that Jesus took two commandments and combined them as one overriding imperative. Simply, that Jesus said that while the first commandment is to love God with all of our heart, mind and soul, that commandment should also be combined with the second commandment of loving our neighbor as we love ourselves.
It’s sad that as we review history, mankind has not chosen those imperatives. All religions call for the love of God and treating our neighbors fairly, yet, through the centuries, those commandments have been violated time and again and even wars have been fought under the crusade of one God. It’s not just wars but it’s also the fact that our history as human beings is complete with poverty, inhumanity, cast offs, and unspeakable crimes including the Holocaust – the single greatest example of man’s inhumanity.
But what does all of this have to do with us today? When I reflected on that, I was first brought to the realization that, as I grew older, things became simpler. Events and actions in the past which were replete with nuances and secondary meanings and implications fell away. Instead I realized that actions in my past life should have and could have been reduced to a simple test – did my actions reflect first my love of God and, just as important, did my actions reflect the fact that I saw God in my neighbors. Did I act in a spirit of that? Did my words reflect that?
Regardless of what my scorecard, or your scorecard shows, we can not change that which was. But today each of us is called to try and influence what is. And it goes beyond our personal life. In my opinion, we have an obligation to articulate and influence the actions of those we love. Now I know that it’s difficult. As we grow, so do our children. As they assume adulthood, they do not have as great a “need” for us. They still love us but they have their own lives and their own immediate families to take care of. So we back off. We know that hey have their own issues and problems and we try not to add anything to that. But I now realize that I still have an obligation to try and influence their thinking and their actions. I have an obligation in my senior years to help them understand why it’s important to focus more on their love of God and of neighbor. Part of that is illustrated by how we live our lives today but part of that is illustrated by the stories we tell of our own life’s journey. It’s not told in an authoritative sense but rather it’s told in a teaching sense.
At this point in our lives, the most important gift we can give is that of life’s lessons. And in those lessons, we can talk of the love of God and of neighbor.
Just think how different our world would have been if the elders of the tribe, the elders of a country, had been focused on teaching and imbedding in those they loved the dual commandment of love of God and of neighbor.