Posted by: livingscripture | March 13, 2015

Third Friday of Lent

From the Word of the Day 

“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.  This second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no other commandment greater than these.”   

 (Matthew 12: 28-31)   

How should we live this Wordcommunity

This is one of the most important and well-known Gospel passages, but also the one most subject to misinterpretation.  It gives us great joy to listen to this Gospel that proclaims Love as the greatest commandment.

In responding to the Scribe’s question, Jesus cites the two texts most often used in Israel’s prayers and spirituality.  It is a passage from Deuteronomy, the celebrated ‘shemà Israel’ (Listen O Israel!)…“You will love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”.

The second is a passage from Leviticus, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’.    In the labyrinth of numberless precepts, Jesus chooses only two that clearly express the essence of God’s will in all its simplicity: Love God and everyone else.  The Mosaic Law had then preoccupied itself with varied and multiple life cases, formulating a series of prescriptions and losing sight of the centre that gives unity and zest to everything.  For Jesus, this unifying centre is Love.

Jesus continues His response to the Scribe saying the first of the commandments is not one but two that are intimately connected, like the two sides of a coin; one side is turned toward God and the other is turned toward men and women.  These two loves can never be separated.  It is in the capacity to keep these two loves solidly united that we see the newness and genius of Jesus.

Although united inseparably, these two loves are also different.  The measure of our love for God is its totality, which in Jesus’ response is stressed four times with the repetition of the word ‘all’.  Instead, the measure of our love of others is to love them as ourselves.  To God belongs total and unconditional love.  We are to love others by helping and serving them as ourselves, but not by adoring them as we do God.

In my pause for silent contemplation, I will ponder these two great commandments of love and ask Jesus to help me live them fully in my daily life.

Jesus, I love You with my whole being!

The Voice of St. Augustine

Love of God is the first commandment, but love of neighbor is the first as its actual practice.  The One who gives the command to love in these two precepts, does not teach you love of neighbor first, then God, but vice versa.  Since You cannot yet see God, loving your neighbor acquires the merit of seeing Him.  Loving your neighbor purifies your eye to be able to see God.

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