There is much written and spoken about these days about love of neighbor. This is a great approach to living the good life, and properly so because God has commanded it of us. There can never be enough talk about love of neighbor, given that it is not just all talk but that it is lived out as proper to Christ’s commandment. However, we must not forget that the greatest commandment is not to love our neighbor, but that it is to love God with all our hearts and all of our minds (Mt 22:37-38). This greatest commandment cannot be replaced by simply living out that second great commandment of loving our neighbor. In other words, a great philanthropic life does not fulfill this greatest commandment.
The commandment to love God with all of our hearts, all of our souls, and all of our minds is quite strange for two reasons. First, the commandment demands that we love God with a freedom that recognizes Him as lovable in Himself and not because we are commanded to. This is strange because it is the commandment that directs us to love, and yet our love ought to overlook its commanding nature. Secondly, the commandment does not demand a performance that is measurable, and thus can be said as having been fulfilled once we have done what is asked. The commandment asks for us to love, and love stems from our hearts, our innermost being, ourselves. We can measure whether or not we have not killed or stolen, but we cannot measure whether or not we have loved with all our hearts and all our beings. For this reason, we would rather give anything and everything we own because anything and everything can be measured; that is, anything and everything except the heart. And this is the thing we are asked to give to God without hesitation and forever.
But can we love God as this commandment demands of us? Our hearts are weary and worn from everyday life that they seem unable to carry out what is demanded of us. Added to this, God seems so far away and distant from our everyday lives that we only call upon Him when we really truly need him, like when a family member suffers or dies. And so we gather from this that we cannot love God like this commandment asks us to. But it is precisely here that we ought to realize that we ourselves cannot give God the love that this greatest commandment asks of us; rather, it must God who has to provide us with this love to love Him. The first and greatest commandment asks that we love God with all our hearts, then the very first prayer that we utter needs to be asking God for this love in order to love Him properly. He must give strength and life to this love to us in order that He can love Himself in us and through us by the power of His Holy Spirit. This is the only way our love can be worthy of Him.
For our own part, we should believe God that when He demands it of us that He would give us the proper tools to fulfill the demand. Here, we should trust God more than our own heart and pray for love. If the heart prays for love, it will love. This is true even if the heart feels saddened at fulfilling so little of that very first and greatest commandment.
Happy Thursday, friends!