( A commentary on Luke 12: 28-34)
One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.( Mark 12:28-34)
Today, a lawyer of Sacred Scripture, having heard Jesus answer the contrived questions from the Sadducees, approaches with a question designed to know the truth. It focuses on what is the most important thing we need to do, and Jesus replies, loving God with all we have and then adds a second command, similar to the first, loving our neighbor with all we have.
The lawyer who asked the question responded with joy at Jesus’ answer. Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God,” because knowing the truth and doing the truth are two different things. To enter the kingdom of God, the scribe needed concretely not just to know about the need to love God and neighbor but actually to love them.
We are all aware of that great command. When did we fall off the wagon? When did we forget how to love?
There is a growing trend toward isolation these days. It is often masked behind a false claim to one’s personal rights. We want to be the center of attention and we are so selective about our relationships.
The customs we had suppressed at the borders, we have applied along the margins of our own existence. It is becoming a popular way of treating others not only in politics but also in our way of life. The beauty of a reciprocal relationship is slowly being replaced by the obsession with our own egos. The other is no longer a pilgrim who crosses through our world but an enemy that we must banish.
We have glossed over the basic fact that loving is a question of the heart! But the heart, in the language of the Bible, means the whole person, the unity and the totality of the person.
You cannot love sometimes, just when you feel like it. If you love, you love always and with all your soul. Jesus says that the heart is where the spirit and the mind join; that is where what I feel truly expresses what I think. But we are often divided, fragmented and incoherent people.
Loving God is not only the first precept that we must accomplish so as to pass to the next level. Loving God is the foundation of the very possibility of loving anyone else for the simple reason that, only in the relationship with God can I feel fundamentally loved.
Once we fail to love God — and to love him with passion, to love him with our minds and come to know him, to love him with our hearts above over loves, to love him with our strength even when it’s hard, to love him with our soul and keep it clean, to love him with all we’ve got — then we fail to recognize him in our neighbor, we alienate ourselves from our neighbors, and then we basically begin to follow Satan’s ways rather than the Lord’s ways.
The great spiritual principle of the desert fathers was “anamnesis”, literally unforgetting. It means to remember that Christ is with us, that he reiterates his teaching in the present, that he gives us himself and his help so that we may love God with all we are and love our neighbor as Christ has loved us first.
If I live a life where my personal freedom counts more than my neighbor, then I have forgotten how to love. It is only in loving the other as yourself that we truly live in our foundational relationship with God.
Prayer of The Day
We love you, O our God; and we desire to love you more and more. Grant to us that we may love you as much as we desire, and as much as we ought. O dearest friend, who has so loved and saved us, the thought of whom is so sweet and always growing sweeter, come with Christ and dwell in our hearts; that you keep a watch over our lips, our steps, our deeds, and we shall not need to be anxious either for our souls or our bodies. Give us love, sweetest of all gifts, which knows no enemy. Give us in our hearts pure love, born of your love to us, that we may love others as you love us. O most loving Father of Jesus Christ, from whom flows all love, let our hearts, frozen in sin, cold to you and cold to others, be warmed by this divine fire. So help and bless us in your Son. (Prayer of Anselm, 1033-1109)
The Christian faith rests on this twofold love. If we deny him, not just by outright apostasy but by choosing sin over him and persevering in sin, then he will deny us, because Jesus himself said that he will acknowledge before the Father those who acknowledge him before others. How important it is to “remind people of these things and charge them before God to stop disputing!” How important it is to help them to remember Christ, to live with him, to reign with him, and to present themselves eagerly as acceptable to God.