The Greatest Commandment

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

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.
(Matthew 22:37)

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, an expert in the law, tested Him 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

Reflection

The Pharisee who was an expert in the law was not really interested in learning the most essential law handed down by God to Moses and through the prophets, but was only posing the question in order to trap Jesus, and perhaps in the process display his own knowledge of the prophetic writings. But Jesus showed His authority on the subject by simply pointing out that to love is the first and greatest commandment: God first and neighbor second, with one’s whole heart, soul and mind, meaning with our total being. The Pharisees, whose lives were dedicated in the total observance of the Judaic laws never expected this answer, but could not dispute its wisdom. Full of legalism, they were exposed for their lack of love in enforcing burdensome laws.

Our Lord was not teaching that loving God and neighbor was more important than following the laws of Moses and the prophets. What He was saying was that all the laws were encapsulated in His law of love. The essence of all the laws of God was love. One who was not obedient to God’s laws can never claim to love God. As the apostle most beloved of Jesus wrote: “The way to be sure that we know Him is to keep His commandments. Whoever says, ‘I know Him,’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His Word, the love of God is truly perfected in him” (1Jn 2:3-5). In the same manner, he also advised, “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and His love is made complete in us” (1Jn 4:11-12)… “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen” (1Jn 4:20).

Obedience to all the natural laws of God cannot be set apart from loving God and our neighbors. Following all the Ten Commandments of God are manifestations of His indwelling love in our life. The first four commandments – serving and adoring Him alone; keeping no craven images; honoring His holy name; and keeping His Sabbath holy are expressions of our total love and commitment to the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, our Trinitarian God. The rest of the Decalogue: honoring our parents; respecting the life, purity, property, reputation and marriage of our neighbors also give honor and glory to God by loving our neighbors as ourselves. As Jesus told His apostles before He left them, “If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” (Jn 15:10). So there is no conflict between love and laws. In Christ Jesus they are one.

Dear Lord Jesus, thank You for teaching us the importance of obedience to all the laws of God, that it is in heeding them that we are able to love fully. Amen.

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