Naturally we all have an inclination to command, and a great aversion to obey; and yet it is certain that it is more for our good to obey than to command; hence perfect souls have always had a great affection for obedience, and have found all their joy and comfort in it. --Saint Francis of Sales: (1567 – 1622: was a Bishop of Geneva and proclaimed a Doctor of the Catholic Church)
Gospel Text: (MK 12:28-34)
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.
The essence of Christianity is the encounter with God to allow Him to enter our very depths. Remember that God loved us first, and that our religion is truly a love affair between God and us, us and God; it is not merely a system of morals and dogmas.
To live the Gospel is painful
You cannot live the Gospel of Christ without pain. Christ was the greatest revolutionary on earth. He calls you to the impossible. Pope Benedict XVI put it this way: “The ways of the Lord are not comfortable. But we were not created for comfort, but for greatness, for good”.
But notice that love of God precedes love of neighbor in the Gospel Text above. Isn't loving our fellow men and women the only way to love God?
There was a time when I would have said that it was redundant to say "Love God and love your neighbor", but I'm no longer sure about that.
I think that Jesus identified the "great and first commandment" as "love God" and then followed quickly with "and love your neighbor as yourself" because it is possible to love others or at least be concerned with the needs of others without taking into account the spiritual, the transcendent, dimension of human life.
There are those who are passionately concerned with the care of the hungry and the homeless who nevertheless have no awareness of the spiritual nature and spiritual needs of human beings. I honor them for their actions and fierce commitment to justice. However, I think that they are making an error.
Rabbi Harold Kushner points out that "the difference between a person who relies only on himself and a person who has learned to turn to God for help... is not that one will do bad things while the other will do good things. The self-reliant atheist may be a fine, upstanding person. The difference is the atheist is like a bush growing in a desert. If he has only himself to rely on, when he exhausts his internal resources he runs the risk of running dry and withering.
"But the man or woman who turns to God is like a tree planted by a stream. What they share with the world is replenished from a source beyond themselves, so they never run dry."