The Perfect Way of Love

Matthew 22: 34-40
Rut 1:1,3-6,14-16,22 / Ps 146

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbor as yourself.
(Matthew 22: 37, 39)

Our greatest quest in life must start,
If heaven’s gate we hope to find,
In perfect love: with all our heart,
With all our soul, and all our mind.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, a scholar in the law, tested Jesus with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

Reflection

Loving God and neighbor: this, in a nutshell, is what our existence in this world is all about. And it is significant to note that it was an expert in the law who asked Jesus, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Because love is not only the greatest of all the commandments of God, but is the very reason for all His laws. When we deliberately fail or refuse to love somebody, we are therefore breaking the greatest law of God.

In one homily of the Mass, I was struck by what the celebrant said: “The opposite of love is not hate; it is indifference.” The first emotion felt by a child is affirmation. Our grandson, Pepe, even before he was one year old, would cry when I ignored him — which I sometimes did to get back at him for ignoring me too, whenever he got a lot of attention from other members of the household. Love, foremost of all, is caring — affirming that the other’s presence is important in one’s life. We’ve heard it said before: “I’d rather be hated than ignored.” At least when you are hated, your existence is affirmed. But when you are ignored, you are treated like a non-entity, of no significance, not worth a second glance. Are we aware that this is exactly how we are treating God our Father, Who is always looking after us, whenever we disobey His decrees, and choose to sin? God is very much a person like you and me. He is also offended when we ignore Him.

In his first letter, St. John wrote: “In this way we know that we love the children of God when we love God and obey His commandments” (1Jn.5:2). Divine love is not the same as what the world understands it. Human love is primarily an emotional response to a person who is loveable or has endearing qualities. This kind of love is characterized by our freedom of choice, and the lover is not subject to any obligation. Christ brings us to a higher plane of love, which involves not merely an emotion, but a commitment of will, mind and our entire being. It is all-encompassing, not merely selective. Today we commemorate the death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino, whose great love for his people and country led to his martyrdom. He expressed this love in his famous words, “The Filipino is worth dying for.” Jesus said, “If you (only) love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? (Mt.5:46) So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48) Ninoy and Cory achieved perfection because they learned to love perfectly.

Father God, Your beloved Son, Jesus our Savior said, “This is my commandment: love one another as I love you” (Jn.15:12). We know, Lord, that it requires much discipline in order to obey this command perfectly, as we can never love as much as You and Your Son have loved us. But we believe that through Your Holy Spirit, we may be able to acquire the grace to follow Your loving ways, and so we pray fervently for this favor in Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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