And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
PRAYER OF THE WEEK
Act of Love
O My God, I love you above all things, with my whole heart, mind and soul, because you are all-good and worthy of all love. I love my neighbor as myself for the love of you. I forgive all who have injured me, and ask pardon of all whom I have injured.
Almighty and merciful God,
by whose gift your faithful offer you
right and praiseworthy service,
grant, we pray,
that we may hasten without stumbling
to receive the things you have promised.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Moses spoke to the people, saying:
“Fear the LORD, your God,
and keep, throughout the days of your lives,
all his statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you,
and thus have long life.
Hear then, Israel, and be careful to observe them,
that you may grow and prosper the more,
in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers,
to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 201 To Israel, his chosen, God revealed himself as the only One: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”1 Through the prophets, God calls Israel and all nations to turn to him, the one and only God: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. .. To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. ‘Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength.’”2
CCC 368 The spiritual tradition of the Church also emphasizes the heart, in the biblical sense of the depths of one’s being, where the person decides for or against God.3
CCC 459 The Word became flesh to be our model of holiness: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.”4 On the mountain of the Transfiguration, the Father commands: “Listen to him!”5 Jesus is the model for the Beatitudes and the norm of the new law: “Love one another as I have loved you.”6 This love implies an effective offering of oneself, after his example.7
CCC 708 This divine pedagogy appears especially in the gift of the Law.8 God gave the Law as a “pedagogue” to lead his people toward Christ.9 But the Law’s powerlessness to save man deprived of the divine “likeness,” along with the growing awareness of sin that it imparts,10 enkindles a desire for the Holy Spirit. The lamentations of the Psalms bear witness to this.
CCC 2055 When someone asks him, “Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?”11 Jesus replies: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets.”12 The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law:
The commandments: “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.13
CCC 2083 Jesus summed up man’s duties toward God in this saying: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.”14 This immediately echoes the solemn call: “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD.”15
God has loved us first. The love of the One God is recalled in the first of the “ten words.” The commandments then make explicit the response of love that man is called to give to his God.
CCC 2093 Faith in God’s love encompasses the call and the obligation to respond with sincere love to divine charity. The first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him.16
CCC 2196 In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall 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, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”17
The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,‘ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”18
1 Dt 6:45.
2 Is 45:22-24; cf. Phil 2:10-11.
3 Cf. Jer 31:33; Dt 6:5; 29:3; Is 29:13; Ezek 36:26; Mt 6:21; Lk 8:15; Rom 5:5.
4 Mt 11:29; Jn 14:6.
5 Mk 9:7; cf. Dt 6:4-5.
6 Jn 15:12.
7 Cf. Mk 8:34.
8 Cf. Ex 19-20; Deut 1-11; 29-30.
9 Gal 3:24.
10 Cf. Rom 3:20.
11 Mt 22:36.
12 Mt 22:37-40; cf. Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18.
13 Rom 13:9-10.
14 Mt 22:37; cf. Lk 10:27:“… and with all your strength.”
15 Deut 6:4.
16 Cf. Deut 6:4-5.
17 Mk 12:29-31; cf. Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18; Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28.
18 Rom 13:8-10.
The relationship between God and man is a relationship of love. God is love and because he is love he created the universe and made man the master and masterpiece of that creation. Love, like heat, is self-diffusive, that is, its nature is to spread itself out. The spreading out of God’s love was creation; he made things and beings who could share his love with him. Chief among his created beings was man to whom he gave the capacity to appreciate love and to return it. Now, God could have given a limited portion of his love to men, that is, he could have let men, like the other creatures on earth, be content with whatever gifts of God’s love they could receive in this world. In other words, earthly death could have been their final end.
However, God’s love, being infinite, went far beyond this as regards men. In creating them, God gave them the faculties which place them away above all other earthly creatures. He made men capable of appreciating love and of reciprocating it–something the other creatures on earth cannot do. God saw that in the short space of this earthly life men could not satisfy the faculty for loving and being loved. He, therefore, planned for men a future life–a life wherein men could fully appreciate the immensity of divine love and return to the that fullness of love according to our own created capacity.
In the “fullness of time,” centuries and centuries after he had created man, God began to make preparations for putting his plan into action. By this time, men had more or less completely forgotten their divine Benefactor, but God had not forgotten them. He called Abraham out of the pagan land of Ur of the Chaldees, and made him a believer in the true God. He brought him over to Canaan–promising to give his descendants that country as their ‘ fatherland. God did so in order to have one people on earth who would know and reverence him, and from whom his divine Son would take his human nature. The incarnation was God’s loving way of making man fit and worthy to win the gift of the future life he had planned for him.
God took a special interest in the descendants of Abraham whom he made his own Chosen People. Having led them out of the slavery of Egypt he made a covenant or pact with them–through their leader Moses on Mount Sinai. God promised to bring them into the Promised Land of Canaan and establish them there; they on their part, were to keep the commandments he gave them. These commandments regulated their lives, their relationship with God and their neighbor. The basis of these relationships was a proper appreciation of all that God had done for them; this appreciation they would show and prove by their reciprocal love for him.
Unfortunately for themselves, the Chosen People did not always keep their part of this covenant of Sinai. Instead of loving God and thanking him for all his gifts to them, they became involved in worldly affairs and turned to the false gods of their pagan neighbors. The result: they were decimated by pagan conquerors and by exile. Notwithstanding their infidelity God was faithful to his promise. A remnant was saved and from that came eventually the human nature which the Son of God took on himself.
We may be shocked at the behavior of God’s Chosen People who were never really grateful for all he did for them, but how much more blameworthy are we Christians, when we forget to love and reverence him. What he did for Abraham’s descendants was but a shadow of what he has done for us. He made them his Chosen People–he has made us his adopted children. He gave them the land of Canaan–he has promised us heaven as our homeland. He gave them Moses to lead them out of the slavery of Egypt–he has given us his divine Son to lead us from the sin and slavery of this world to heaven. Moses, as leader of the stubborn Israelites, led a life of contradiction and troubles–Christ our Leader suffered the death of the cross for us.
We do owe so much more than the Chosen People to God; are we trying to repay that immense debt? Do we love God as we should?
Ps 18:2-3, 3-4, 47, 51
I love you, Lord, my strength.
I love you, O LORD, my strength,
O LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer.
I love you, Lord, my strength.
My God, my rock of refuge,
my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold!
Praised be the LORD, I exclaim,
and I am safe from my enemies.
I love you, Lord, my strength.
The LORD lives! And blessed be my rock!
Extolled be God my savior.
You who gave great victories to your king
and showed kindness to your anointed.
I love you, Lord, my strength.
Brothers and sisters:
The levitical priests were many
because they were prevented by death from remaining in office,
but Jesus, because he remains forever,
has a priesthood that does not pass away.
Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him,
since he lives forever to make intercession for them.
It was fitting that we should have such a high priest:
holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners,
higher than the heavens.
He has no need, as did the high priests,
to offer sacrifice day after day,
first for his own sins and then for those of the people;
he did that once for all when he offered himself.
For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests,
but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law,
appoints a son,
who has been made perfect forever.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 519 All Christ’s riches “are for every individual and are everybody’s property.”1 Christ did not live his life for himself but for us, from his Incarnation “for us men and for our salvation” to his death “for our sins” and Resurrection “for our justification”.2 He is still “our advocate with the Father”, who “always lives to make intercession” for us.3 He remains ever “in the presence of God on our behalf, bringing before him all that he lived and suffered for us.”4
CCC 662 “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”5 The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies and announces his lifting up by his Ascension into heaven, and indeed begins it. Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands. .. but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”6 There Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him”.7 As “high priest of the good things to come” he is the center and the principal actor of the liturgy that honors the Father in heaven.8
CCC 827 “Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”9 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.10 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.11 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:
The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.12
CCC 828 By canonizing some of the faithful, i.e., by solemnly proclaiming that they practiced heroic virtue and lived in fidelity to God’s grace, the Church recognizes the power of the Spirit of holiness within her and sustains the hope of believers by proposing the saints to them as models and intercessors.13 “The saints have always been the source and origin of renewal in the most difficult moments in the Church’s history.”14 Indeed, “holiness is the hidden source and infallible measure of her apostolic activity and missionary zeal.”15
CCC 1085 In the liturgy of the Church, it is principally his own Paschal mystery that Christ signifies and makes present. During his earthly life Jesus announced his Paschal mystery by his teaching and anticipated it by his actions. When his Hour comes, he lives out the unique event of history which does not pass away: Jesus dies, is buried, rises from the dead, and is seated at the right hand of the Father “once for all.”16 His Paschal mystery is a real event that occurred in our history, but it is unique: all other historical events happen once, and then they pass away, swallowed up in the past. The Paschal mystery of Christ, by contrast, cannot remain only in the past, because by his death he destroyed death, and all that Christ is – all that he did and suffered for all men – participates in the divine eternity, and so transcends all times while being made present in them all. The event of the Cross and Resurrection abides and draws everything toward life.
CCC 1364 In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ’s Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.17 “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”18
CCC 1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes present) the sacrifice of the cross, because it is its memorial and because it applies its fruit:
[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end with his death, at the Last Supper “on the night when he was betrayed,” [he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily commit.19
CCC 1540 Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer,20 this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.21
CCC 1544 Everything that the priesthood of the Old Covenant prefigured finds its fulfillment in Christ Jesus, the “one mediator between God and men.”22 The Christian tradition considers Melchizedek, “priest of God Most High,” as a prefiguration of the priesthood of Christ, the unique “high priest after the order of Melchizedek”;23 “holy, blameless, unstained,”24 “by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified,”25 that is, by the unique sacrifice of the cross.
CCC 1564 “Whilst not having the supreme degree of the pontifical office, and notwithstanding the fact that they depend on the bishops in the exercise of their own proper power, the priests are for all that associated with them by reason of their sacerdotal dignity; and in virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, after the image of Christ, the supreme and eternal priest, they are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel and shepherd the faithful as well as to celebrate divine worship as true priests of the New Testament.”26
CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.27 He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”28 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”29
CCC 2741 Jesus also prays for us – in our place and on our behalf. All our petitions were gathered up, once for all, in his cry on the Cross and, in his Resurrection, heard by the Father. This is why he never ceases to intercede for us with the Father.30 If our prayer is resolutely united with that of Jesus, in trust and boldness as children, we obtain all that we ask in his name, even more than any particular thing: the Holy Spirit himself, who contains all gifts.
1 John Paul II, RH II.
2 I Cor 15:3; Rom 4:25.
3 I Jn 2:1 Heb 7:25.
4 Heb 9:24.
5 Jn 12:32.
6 Heb 9:24.
7 Heb 7:25.
8 Heb 9:11; cf. Rev 4:6-11.
9 LG 8 § 3; Cf. UR 3; 6; Heb 2:17; 726; 2 Cor 5:21.
10 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.
11 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.
12 Paul VI, CPG § 19.
13 Cf. LG 40; 48-51.
14 John Paul II, CL 16,3.
15 CL 17, 3.
16 Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; cf. Jn 13:1; 17:1.
17 Cf. Heb 7:25-27.
18 LG 3; cf. 1 Cor 5:7.
19 Council of Trent (1562): DS 1740; cf. 1 Cor 11:23; Heb 7:24, 27.
20 Cf. Mal 2:7-9.
21 Cf. Heb 5:3; 7:27; 101-4.
22 2 Tim 2:5.
23 Heb 5:10; cf. 6:20; Gen 14:18.
24 Heb 7:26.
25 Heb 10:14.
26 LG 28 cf. Heb 5:1-10; 7:24; 9:11-28; Innocent I, Epist. ad Decentium:PL 20,554A; St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2,22:PG 35,432B.
27 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.
28 Heb 7:25.
29 Rom 8:26-27.
30 Cf. Heb 5:7; 7:25; 9:24
In today’s first reading we saw how privileged we are when compared with the Chosen People of the Old Testament. These six verses from Hebrews, which form our second reading today are given over to the same theme: our high priest, our mediator with God, is incomparably greater and more efficacious than any intermediaries they had, for he is none other than God’s own divine Son. But, lest we be tempted to see discrimination or acceptance of persons on the part of God, we must realize that God’s plan for man’s salvation was put into operation gradually–as he found men’s minds fit to receive his revelation.
The Israelites, whom God selected to be the recipients of his partial revelation in the Old Testament times, were evidently more worthy of this honor than any of their contemporaries. Yet, they were only a few steps removed from paganism and were ever in danger of reverting to it. However, God dealt with them mercifully and patiently. He quickly forgave their many lapses, and again and again he protected them from their pagan enemies during their twelve hundred years in Canaan. Even when the exile–which their disloyalty brought upon them–should have ended their history as a separate race forever, he brought back a “remnant” to Jerusalem and Judah from whom the promised Messiah took his human nature.
His revelation of himself to them, and of his great purpose for man, was partial and limited because they were not yet sufficiently developed in their religious outlook. They were given only a vague idea of life after death. The rewards promised for fidelity to him and to his commandments were temporal, earthly rewards. But running like a golden thread through the tapestry of their history, was the promise and, therefore, the hope of a great blessing to come through them for all mankind. The prophets gradually developed this promise and hope. By the time Christ came–as the fulfillment of that promise first made to Abraham–sharing in this blessing was much more important to the true, loyal chosen ones of God than were temporal rewards or blessings.
While thus preparing his Chosen People for the incarnation God was also preparing the pagan nations for the coming of Christ. The following were all preparations for the speedy spread of the gospel when Christ came: Alexander’s conquest of the known world toward the end of the 4th century B.C.–with the consequent spread of the Greek language; the rise of the Roman empire which strengthened the unity of its various subjects by sound laws and safe means of travel; the decline in almost all parts of the empire–the then known world–of the belief in the pagan gods. In these and in many other ways, God was patiently and wisely preparing the world for the astounding act of divine love toward mankind which was revealed in the incarnation.
We are Christians today because God wanted it so from all eternity. He worked quietly and efficiently down through the ages to make this possible. As regards our knowledge of God and the purpose he has for us, we are much better informed than were the Chosen People and the pagan nations of the past. But they will be judged according to their knowledge; their religious ignorance will excuse many a fault. We, on the other hand, will be expected to make a return to him in proportion to the many talents he has given us. Our excuses at the judgement seat will be very few and very flimsy. Our Judge will be the very Son of God who made himself our high priest, in order to open heaven for us and make our entrance there safe and relatively easy. He is ever present, pleading our case at the throne of mercy. The Christian who turns his back on Christ his advocate during life, will surely find it hard to face him as his judge when he comes to die.
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 129 Christians therefore read the Old Testament in the light of Christ crucified and risen. Such typological reading discloses the inexhaustible content of the Old Testament; but it must not make us forget that the Old Testament retains its own intrinsic value as Revelation reaffirmed by our Lord himself.1 Besides, the New Testament has to be read in the light of the Old. Early Christian catechesis made constant use of the Old Testament.2 As an old saying put it, the New Testament lies hidden in the Old and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.3
CCC 202 Jesus himself affirms that God is “the one Lord” whom you must love “with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”.4 At the same time Jesus gives us to understand that he himself is “the Lord”.5 To confess that Jesus is Lord is distinctive of Christian faith. This is not contrary to belief in the One God. Nor does believing in the Holy Spirit as “Lord and giver of life” introduce any division into the One God:
We firmly believe and confess without reservation that there is only one true God, eternal infinite (immensus) and unchangeable, incomprehensible, almighty and ineffable, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; three persons indeed, but one essence, substance or nature entirely simple.6
CCC 575 Many of Jesus’ deeds and words constituted a “sign of contradiction”,7 but more so for the religious authorities in Jerusalem, whom the Gospel according to John often calls simply “the Jews”,8 than for the ordinary People of God.9 To be sure, Christ’s relations with the Pharisees were not exclusively polemical. Some Pharisees warn him of the danger he was courting;10 Jesus praises some of them, like the scribe of Mark 12:34, and dines several times at their homes.11 Jesus endorses some of the teachings imparted by this religious elite of God’s people: the resurrection of the dead,12 certain forms of piety (almsgiving, fasting and prayer),13 the custom of addressing God as Father, and the centrality of the commandment to love God and neighbor.14
CCC 2196 In response to the question about the first of the commandments, Jesus says: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall 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, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”15
The apostle St. Paul reminds us of this: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,‘ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”16
1 Cf. Mk 12:29-31
2 Cf. I Cor 5:6-8; 10:1-11.
3 Cf. St. Augustine, Quaest. in Hept. 2, 73: PL 34,623; Cf. DU 16.
4 Mk 12:29-30
5 Cf. Mk 12:35-37.
6 Lateran Council IV: DS 800.
7 Lk 2:34.
8 Cf. Jn 1:19; 2:18; 5:10; 7:13; 9:22; 18:12; 19:38; 20:19.
9 Jn 7:48-49.
10 Cf Lk 13:31.
11 Cf. Lk 7:36; 14:1.
12 Cf. Mt 22:23-34; Lk 20:39.
13 Cf. Mt 6:18.
14 Cf. Mk 12:28-34.
15 Mk 12:29-31; cf. Deut 6:4-5; Lev 19:18; Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28.
16 Rom 13:8-10.
The personal lesson which comes over loud and clear for every sincere Christian from today’s gospel, is that the solid foundation of our Christian religion is love of God and neighbor. As our Lord says: “there is no other commandment greater than these.” All the other commandments are expansions of these two and indications of how we are to put these two commandments into daily practice. For example: why am I forbidden to murder my neighbor? Simply because he belongs to God; it was God who gave him his life, and God has commanded me to love and respect him. Taking his life is interfering with God’s rights, and disobeying him as well. Likewise, the prohibition of idolatry, refraining from insulting God’s name, keeping the Sabbath day holy are the principal ways of indicating how we should love God.
One may ask: how can I love God? He is infinitely perfect, he needs nothing from me, what therefore can I do for him? I can understand loving my neighbor–for a neighbor can need help, advice, encouragement and consolation. I can prove my love by giving these to my neighbor, but God has no such needs. It is quite true that true love is not theoretical but pragmatic, it means doing some good for somebody. While the infinite God has no needs that I can supply, he has claims on my service, on my respect, on my gratitude–claims so basic and so great that I must be ready to suffer persecution and even death rather than deny or dishonor him (Mt. 5: 10; Lk. 6: 23). It was God who gave me existence and every gift that I have. It was God, through the incarnation of his own divine Son, who made me his adopted child and heir to heaven. Everything that I am and have and hope to be, I owe to God’s generosity; therefore, he has an unquestionable right to my gratitude, my reverence, my respect–these are the ways in which I can show my love for him.
The keeping of God’s commandments, the prayers of thanksgiving, praise and petition which daily we offer, the attendance at Mass and other liturgical functions, these are the means God gives us of showing our love, our recognition of total dependence on him and our gratitude for all he has done and is doing for us. God does not need any of these signs of our submission and reverence and respect, but we need them absolutely, for they are the means he has given us of fulfilling his purpose in creating us—to share his eternal glory with him. To love God then, is not an obligation imposed on us by some demanding superior but a privilege granted us so that we can become worthy of the greater gifts he has in store for us.
Loving our neighbor–and in the Christian code this means all men no matter what may be their color, race or religion–is, according to our divine Lord, another most effective way of proving to God that we love him. Because of our common humanity we should be inclined to help our fellow-men, our neighbors, but the Christian law spiritualizes this natural inclination, by commanding us to help our neighbor because he is God’s child. We are all fellow-children of God, members of the one family. Our heavenly Father loves each one of us and wants our salvation. If we love our common Father we will do all we can to help his other children also to attain salvation. It will earn for us God’s favor.
If we observe these two commandments we are “fulfilling the whole law and the prophets,”; we are serving God and showing our gratitude to him for all his goodness to us. The Christian who is following Christ in love is already active in the earthly kingdom of God and traveling safely toward God’s eternal kingdom of peace and happiness.”
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press,
How Love is Possible
Love of neighbor is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ. His friend is my friend. Going beyond exterior appearances, I perceive in others an interior desire for a sign of love, of concern. This I can offer them not only through the organizations intended for such purposes, accepting it perhaps as a political necessity. Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave… If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties,” then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper,” but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbor and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Thank You God!
Dear Loving and Compassionate God, Giver of all gifts, we pray especially today for the mercy and love You give us. Open our hearts and minds to You. Give us the grace to accept your mercy. As we live each day, we pray for those less fortunate, especially those who are hurting, and whose wounds need to be healed. Help us become involved in ways that show them how deeply we care. Give us the personal courage to listen to their concerns and help them find the solutions to which they are entitled as Your children and our brothers and sisters. We ask this and all our prayers through Christ our Lord.