Jesus in our Gospel today gives us what should be the foundation of our lives- what our entire lives should be consumed about.
Trying to trip Jesus up, a scholar of the law asked which commandment of all the laws of Moses is the greatest? When you and I think of the commandments we probably think of the 10- right. At least I hope we think of the commandments. But for the Jews, in the Torah- which are the first 5 books of the Bible, Moses gave 613 laws. The Jewish people had 613 laws and restrictions that they were to live by in order to be good Jews. Things like not eating unclean animals, refraining from any kind of work on the sabbath, etc. The 10 commandments we know of from Exodus 20 are just 10 of the 613. So, this scholar is asking, which of all 613 is the greatest?
Obviously, he was trying to get Jesus to say that 1 of the commandments is greater, and so the others are less important, so that they would have something to against Jesus. Jesus could have said the 1st of the 10 commandments is the greatest. Pop quiz- raise your hand if you know what the 1st commandment is? On a count of 3 everyone say it out loud. That’s right, “I am the Lord your God, you shall not have any other gods before me”. But instead Jesus sums up all the commandments in the 2 that He gives - Love God and love neighbor. If you know all the 10 commandments, you know that the first 3 talk about love of God, and the next 7 explain what it means to love neighbor.
But instead of giving the 1st commandment- thou shall not have any other gods before me- Jesus turns this commandment right side up. He tells us what we should do. Instead of saying the negative, the prohibitive law- thou shall not- Jesus uses the positive version of the law. So, I ask you- how do you see the 10 commandments? Do you see them as laws that restrict your freedom- negative laws that prohibit you from doing what you want? Or do you see them as positive laws that are meant for our good, good rules that help to keep the peace and lead us to happiness and fulfillment if we willingly follow them. Jesus doesn’t want us to have the attitude of having to grudgingly obey, he desires us to see the freedom that is found when doing God’s will. Jesus wants us to truly see that by following these commandments we will truly be happy.
So, in answering which of the laws is the greatest, Jesus gives what every Jew knew well. Jesus gives the Shema- which means to listen/hear- the first word from Deut. 6:4-9. Every Jew recited the Shema prayer every day- three times a day- morning, noon, and evening, they would pray this Shema. “Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and all your strength. The verse continues, “Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendent on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates”.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. In other words, love God with your complete person, with all that you are. Indeed, the love of God should be prominent in our hearts and minds at all times. That Shema should be our prayer every day too. We should post it as our screen saver and put it on our refrigerator and bathroom mirror. Indeed, we should always be reminded to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, and mind. We should pray every day, every second of every day, that He will be Lord of our lives and we will love Him above all things. We should drill it into our children- what if our children were taught how to love God, and if they really knew how much God loved them. This could change the world. Parents, what if the absolute and amazing love of God was drilled into them, instead of ‘just going to Church because I say so’. What a difference it would make in their lives. And I believe it is possible.
We should reflect if the love of God is truly center of our hearts. Are we truly seeking to love God above all things, before anything else in our lives? Are we letting our hearts be loved, are we receiving God’s intimate love for us every day in prayer? Notice that I didn’t just say are we praying every day, but are we receiving the love of God every day in prayer. Do you know the intimate love God has for you deep down in your heart? Have you experienced how much God loves you in your heart, in your soul, and in your mind- have you been utterly rocked by the love God has for you? This is the intimate relationship God desires to have with you.
I was talking to a woman who is coming back to the Church after only being baptized as a baby. She told me of an encounter she had while climbing the great majestic mountain- Machu Picchu. One day while climbing, some from her group was way ahead of her, and others were some ways behind, and she found herself alone. It was a beautiful sunny day, there she was on the mountain, in the midst of the clouds. Suddenly, in the midst of the amazing scenery, she was filled with such peace and love- beyond anything she had ever encountered. She was awe-struck, she could not do anything at this majestic sight with such an intimate feeling, but fall to her knees in prayer. For the first time, she truly felt the love of God, she knew God so loved her that He would die upon the Cross for her. It wasn’t just something she had just heard over the years, but now she knew deep down that she was loved. This was for her. For the first time she realized that she was loved, she was lovable. God wanted her to know just how deeply and intimately He loved her. And everything changed for her that day. The amazing and intimate encounter she had of the love of God truly impacted everything about her. Her heart wasn’t satisfied any more by anything else. The love of God changed her perspective, how she saw herself, how she saw others, and saw the world.
My brothers and sisters, it is when we surrender all and allow the love of the Lord our God impact our entire being, and become the center of our hearts, souls, mind, and strength that we will begin to know Him. It is only when we let the Lord our God and His love for us be the foundation of all that we are, all that we do and say- then and only then can we “love our neighbor as ourselves”, as Jesus commands. If we do not know deep down the love God has for us, if we don’t know that we are lovable, if we don’t receive the love of God into our very beings every day in prayer, then how can we expect to love others the way God loves us. We cannot give what we do not have. God commands you and I to love your neighbor as yourself. To love means more than just being nice to them, but to love means to give of yourself for the good of the other- just as God loves and has given Himself for us. It means to love your spouse, and not just get along with them. To truly love your children, and not just take care of them. To love your boss, to love your family, to love your enemies. We are called to love everyone not with our own ability. To live not with our own strength, not with our own good human efforts; but we are called to love others the way God has loved us. But until we allow the love of God infiltrate our very being every day, we will not be able to truly love others as He loves us.
Think for a moment about what it would look and feel like to truly love others. What would it be like to be constantly trying to see the good and see the love of God in others every day- to see God in your spouse, your children, your boss and co-workers. And what would it be like to conscientiously try to reveal and show the love of God to others every day? What would it be like to go about our days filled with and conscientiously aware of the love of God? Let us pray that here in and through this Mass, and particularly as we receive the Holy Eucharist let’s pray that you and I will have a deep and profound encounter with the love God has for us, let us receive it fully, and strive to live and share it today and every day.BACK TO LIST