The Lord said: “Woe to you Pharisees! You pay tithes of mint and of rue and of every garden herb, but you pay no attention to judgment and to love for God. These you should have done, without overlooking the others. Woe to you Pharisees! You love the seat of honor in synagogues and greetings in marketplaces. Woe to you! You are like unseen graves over which people unknowingly walk.” Then one of the scholars of the law said to him in reply, “Teacher, by saying this you are insulting us too.” And he said, “Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” (Luke 11:42-46)
Why did Jesus adopt such a harsh tone with the Pharisees in today’s scripture?
They were very attentive to minute matters of little importance, but they neglected to care for the needy and the weak. Jesus admonished them because their hearts were not right. They put unnecessary burdens on others while neglecting to show charity, especially to the weak and the poor. They meticulously went through the correct motions of conventional religion while forgetting the realities.
What was the point of Jesus’ lesson? The essence of God’s commandments is love – love of the supreme good – God himself and love of our neighbor who is made in the image and likeness of God. God is love (1 John 4:8) and everything he does flows from his love for us. God’s love is unconditional and is wholly directed towards the good of others. True love both embraces and lifts the burdens of others
The two commandments He gave us are actually two components of one great commandment. Neither of those two commandments can function independently. Both are necessary. Each is one side of the same coin, together forming the one great commandment that is most important of all.
Why is it impossible to love God without loving our neighbor? Unless we are willing to love our neighbor, unless we’re willing to give ourselves in service to those in need, unless we’re willing to reach out in generosity and sacrifice, our love of God is hypocrisy.
If we are unable to love those around us, our prayer to God and our love of God is empty. If we are unwilling to give of ourselves to others, then our love of God is merely a matter of words or pious practices. It might make us feel good, but it has no substance. It is not based in reality. Love of God without love of neighbor is empty. It is hypocrisy.
How about the other way around? Why is love of neighbor without love of God deficient? Why do we need to love God if we are truly going to love our neighbor? This is a more difficult question, isn’t it? But the answer is this: love of God gives us the freedom to love others even when it is difficult, even when it is not all that practical. It is easy to love those who love us in return, but how can we love those who hurt us? How can we love our enemies? We cannot love them for their sake, but we can love them for God’s sake. We can love them because we love God
The love of God gives us the ability to love others and to love the earth, even when that love is not reciprocated, even when it produces few results. Our Jewish brother and sisters call this kind of loving a “mitzvah.” It means “it is commanded.” We do it because God expects it of us, and we love the God who loves us. This kind of loving is free. It is free from the limitations of strategies, the limitations of success. We love because God asks us to love, and that love is without any strings attached.
Jesus gives us a great commandment, but that great commandment has two essential parts: love of God and love of neighbor. Both are required. Love of God without love of neighbor is empty. Love of neighbor without love of God is limited to only love which is convenient and practical. But these two loves together form one great commandment. They are the most important thing. They are our entry into the kingdom of God.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, inflame my heart with your love that I may always pursue what matters most – love of you, my Lord and my God, and love of my fellow neighbor whom you have made in your own image and likeness. Free my heart from selfish desires that I may only have room for kindness, mercy, and goodness toward every person I know and meet.”
Jesus continually invites us to take responsibility for our lives by choosing freely how we will relate to ourselves, to others, and to God. His Gospel continues to shine like a beacon, illuminating a path of living in which we see ourselves as called into friendship with God and called to build up God’s Kingdom–not our own personal kingdoms–in the world around us. As we look at the climate in the United States with its deep divisions and polarizations, each of us must ask ourselves whether we are maintaining our friendship with God and building up his kingdom by loving and serving our neighbor regardless of who they are and what they think.