In Sunday’s Gospel at Mass, Jesus is challenged to answer the question ‘which is the most important commandment?’.
This is asked to trap Jesus, as many of the commandments were initiated by Moses and to mess with the law was a serious offence for the Jews. Jesus’ answer is simple:
‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself.’
Often we can get so bogged down with religious rules and laws, that sometimes they can lose their meaning and effectiveness. Here Jesus reminds us that all the laws that point us to worshipping God are to resemble our love of our neighbour. It’s when we separate our love of God from our love of neighbour that we run into trouble.
Adhering to law without love for our neighbour makes religious people bigoted or even extremist – it’s not only hurtful, it can become dangerous to society. Our religious laws and teachings are there to hold us to a higher standard of living, but this must always be made manifest through our love of neighbour which enriches our communities, not divides them. The way we act should by symbolic of the love we have for God – the word symbolic means to ‘bring together’. The opposite is diabolic which means to divide and is where we get the name ‘devil’ from – the one who divides (El Diablo).
Therefore we should always try to link our following of religious law to a benefit for the lives of others, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant the law might be. For example – not eating meat on a Friday. These days fewer and fewer Catholics seem to adhere to this teaching, yet a deeper understanding on this penance can be really rewarding: Being a penance, we abstain from meat as an act of sorrow for the sins that we have committed (most of us sin everyday in some small way in thoughts words, action or inaction). Now I can either take this abstinence and rub it in peoples’ faces to show how holy I am and make all who don’t abstain from meat feel bad (diabolical/divisive) – or I can use this penance to increase my love for my neighbour perhaps by remembering through my penance that I should forgive those who trespass again me, or maybe I can seek to do something for those who don’t have the choice but to abstain from meat because of poverty. Either way adherence to ‘law’ leads to an increase of love for neighbour (symbolic).
We ask God to help us understand more fully what it means to love him with all our heart, our soul and our mind, and to show this love to others as we pray: Our Father…
Think: What Church teaching do you struggle to keep? How might adhering this teaching be calling you into a deeper love of God and your neighbour?