By David Kilby
The Greatest Commandment:
When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees,
they gathered together,
and one of them [a scholar of the law] tested him by asking,
“Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”
He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.
This is the greatest and the first commandment.
The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
In this Gospel, Jesus teaches us that love is the answer. As St. Paul said, “Love always trusts” (1 Corinthians 13:7). Even though the question the Saduccees asked Jesus in today’s Gospel was a good one, they did not trust him. Instead ...
The Saduccees tested Jesus.
How often do we test God? How often do we say, “Lord, if you do this, I promise I will follow you more closely.” Our relationship with God should not be like a contract. The questioning of the Saduccees and Pharisees was in direct contrast to the approach of the apostles, who dropped their nets and immediately followed Christ without questioning him (see Matthew 4:20).
How often do we expect God to pass our tests before we trust in him? In doing this, we fail to see that God is faithfulness itself. The very virtue of faith is a gift from him. By refusing to have faith, we are refusing a gift from God.
St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Anselm of Canterbury taught that true faith seeks understanding (fides quarens intellectum). The Saduccees and Pharisees seem to want understanding before they have faith. Enlightenment philosophers like René Descartes relied heavily on human reason as well. This led to secular humanism which in essence states that God is not worthy of our faith because we can’t understand him. The Church has always taught a different approach.
As Pope St. John Paul II wrote:
“our vision of the face of God is always fragmentary and impaired by the limits of our understanding. Faith alone makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently….. at the summit of its searching reason acknowledges that it cannot do without what faith presents” (Fides et Ratio, 13, 42).
Are we willing to take the leap of faith and trust that God will lead us to deeper understanding? Can we trust him before we test him?
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart …”
What is the heart? The Catechism tells us:
“The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live … The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision ... the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2563).
We know and understand things with the mind, but we choose to love with the heart. Meditate on this mystery, and on why God is calling us to love him with all our hearts.
“with all you soul …”
What is the soul? It is the image of God etched into our very being. It is what makes us human. So God is telling us to love him with all that we are. Also, the Church teaches that the body and the soul are one (see CCC 365). Because of this, when Christ says to love God with all your soul, he is also saying to love God with your body. As St. Paul stated, “your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you” (1 Corinthians 6:19).
“with all your mind …”
St. John Paul II said, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.” Both faith and reason are essential. In our journey to draw closer to God, we should use our intellectual gifts just as much as the gift of faith. Do I study God’s word? Do I strive to learn more about the Faith in my free time? Are God and the Faith genuine interests of mine, or is my commitment to them just seen as an obligation in my mind?
“Love your neighbor as yourself …”
Love of God must be portrayed in our actions. Just as “faith without works is dead” (see James 2:14-26), love of God without love of neighbor is also dead. In his parable about the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25:37), Jesus says our neighbor is anyone in need. However, lest we forget, our neighbors are also the people who live right next door to us and in our neighborhood. How can I love them? Getting to know them better is a start. Don’t be afraid to ask them over for coffee. And if they say yes, don’t be afraid to tell them how God has impacted your life.
“The whole law and the prophets depend on these commandments …”
The Lord is compassionate. He does not require a complex set of rules in order for us to obtain salvation. Instead, he appeals to the deepest, most fundamental part of us: our desire for love and to love. Many of us find loving God to be difficult simply because we do not know who God is. He is the fulfillment of every desire. When God tells us to love him with all our heart, mind, and soul, he is telling us to get in touch with the most basic part of who we are. He wants us to go back to the things that set our hearts on fire when we were young, to remember the things that first piqued our interest before the world, the flesh and the devil corrupted our minds. In today’s Gospel, God is telling us to remember our first love.
Almighty God, we give you thanks and praise! Thank you for your greatest gift of love, for you are the God of eternal love. We thank you for Jesus, who showed us perfect love by laying down his life for us. We love you with all our heart, soul, and mind. We humbly ask to stir up in our heart, your spirit of love. We pray, In Jesus Name. Amen 🙏
Allow your heart, mind, and soul time to settle and be silent. Let the Lord speak to your innermost self. Empty yourself so he can fill you with his grace. What is he saying? If love is the answer, how is he telling you to love today?
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