Love of God and neighbor
By Rev. Canon David B. Tabo-oy
Jesus replied, “The most important one is this: ‘Listen, Israel! The Lord our God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second most important commandment is this: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment more important than these two.” Mark 12:28-34
Religion is about going up to God and out to our neighbor at the same time. Love of God is interwoven with love of neighbor that it is a difficult balance to achieve. If we don’t strike the happy medium we can easily separate religion from life. To say our prayers and attend Sunday Mass, while ignoring our neighbor, is a mere half-hearted response to God’s love, which presents no challenge. It amounts to slicing the commandments down the middle and living half the gospel. Worshipping God in isolation makes a mockery of religion; likewise love of our neighbor, which has no reference to and does not proceed from the love of God, comes to nothing more than a form of refined self-love.
When the Pharisees came to Jesus once again, hoping to trip him up after the Sadducees failed to do so, they asked a question which for us today might be absurd. If we hear the word ‘commandments’, we think about the 10 Commandments which God gave to Moses in Mt. Sinai. But Jesus and the Pharisees knew that over the centuries, the list of the laws had grown considerably, so Jesus asked to choose not from among the 10 laws but from the hundreds. Tricky isn’t it? The Pharisees were also testing Jesus to see whether he might choose a commandment other than the one they knew to be the greatest, thus proving he was a faithless idolater.
Jesus not only knew the correct answer, however, he challenged the Pharisees themselves by quickly citing a second commandment. The two commandments in our gospel lesson this Sunday belong together. We cannot obey one unless we also keep the other. If we disobey one, we break them both. If we do not love God, our supposed love of our neighbor is only a form of self-love. If we do not love our neighbor, the love we claim to have for God is only empty emotion. Loving God inspires love of neighbor; love of neighbor enfleshes love of God.
The biting question to be faced is whether the love of God is evident in the love we have for others. Take home-life for example: as the years pass it’s so easy to slip into the habit of taking our partner for granted, looking upon her as a provider of meals, a housekeeper, while failing to respect her as a person in her own right. The same can be true of the children; prized possessions, no doubt, but my property. Perhaps it’s time to become a bit more conscious of those we have ignored and failed to treat as people and to see the faces of those who desperately need our love. We show our love for God through definite and deliberate works of love for the sick, the old and the lonely because we meet God in their lives. Christian love is about getting out ourselves ad reaching towards the needy. The Kingdom of God is continually proclaimed when the love of God and the love of our neighbor are evident in the community.
Loving God inspires love of neighbor, love of neighbor incarnates or puts flesh to our love of God. This teaching is what being the body of Christ is all about, and we carry it into the world each day as we go about our various ministries or apostolates.
Let us pray.
Heavenly Father, make us worthy of your call.
Give us the grace to live out this commandment of love in word and deed.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.