Loving God & Neighbor

Mark 12: 28-34
Tb 6:10-11,7:1,9-17,8:4-9a / Ps 128

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
(Mark 12:30)

By His patience Christ made us feel
The essence of His love so real,
That in turn we too may reveal
His love according to God’s will.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing how well Jesus had answered the Sadducees, he asked Him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus answered, “The most important one is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” The scribe replied, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12: 28-34)

Reflection

In most encounters with the Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees, Jesus patiently taught them the errors of their beliefs and convictions, even though He knew that all their queries were not meant to seek the truth, but to entrap Him in His words. His patience and wisdom finally found a soft spot in one of the scribes, who initially sought to test Jesus’ knowledge about the law, but was greatly impressed by His quick response on the two most important laws: to love God, and to love one’s neighbor. After all, Jesus was Love incarnate, and He radiated it wherever He went, in whatever He did, and in whatever He said. Perhaps this was the reason why His enemies hated Him, because He represented their opposite nature. But Jesus still showed the true essence of love by His patience and kindness toward them.

Loving God and neighbor are the greatest commandments because they are done not in obedience to laws, but in imitation and adulation of the Father’s nature, Who is Love. Love is the greatest commandment because it is not just a commandment, but the fruit of the Holy Spirit that God gives to His faithful children. It is not just a task to perform, but a commitment to give of our self without conditions, without limits. And we cannot love God if we do not love our neighbor as well. “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)

Jesus said we must love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with all our mind, and with all our strength. To love Him perfectly He must always be in our mind and in our heart. This is what praying and meditation is all about. In the first reading, before Tobiah and Sarah consummated their love, they first prayed to God “for mercy and deliverance” (Tob.8:4-5) St. Paul says, “Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Col.3:17) Thus, true love must be spiritual, otherwise it is not love at all. It is His Holy Spirit that gives us the inspiration to pray and meditate.

What we have become is all because of God’s love. His love for us is transformational. Just as my life has been transformed by the sacrament of marriage – and conjugal love comes from Him too – I have become a better person not because of so much effort on my part, but because through the years God patiently molded me, and revealed the true meaning of His love. In all gratitude for His gift, how can I not love Him back with everything I’ve got?

Dear God, You are love. You have shown us that the more we love others, the closer we come to reflect Your image and likeness. Thank You, Lord, for this revelation. Amen.

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