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GOSPEL COMMENTARIES


 

 

THE TWO GREATEST COMMANDMENTS 

(Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34)

The Pharisees, Scribes and Sadducees were not really agreed on which is the greatest commandment. Some thought it was sacrifices but the Scribes thought it was to love God and neighbor. 

So happy was the Scribe when he received from Christ the answer confirming their stand that the greatest commandment is to love God and neighbor. 

In the New Testament, Christ stated that the greatest commandment is to love God. The second is to love your neighbor...which is like the first, He added. In between these two commands is to love oneself...which does not have to be mentioned because it is natural to man. 

We must love God as God and not as a man as many do, treating Christ as man and sort of having a romantic relationship with Him. We must love ourselves as humans and not as gods as many also tend to do. And we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves. 

In this we must observe the right order; in that we must love God first before we can love ourselves and our neighbors in the right way. Without loving God first, a soul becomes totally incapable of loving oneself and neighbor in the right way. And Christ said so--that the love of God is shown by loving one's neighbor. If there is no love for God, there is no love to show one's neighbor. 

How do we love God? "If you love Me, keep My commandments." We must keep the commandments of God in the Old Testament and the Beatitudes of Christ in the New Testament. And this is Christ's command, in short, "to deny oneself, take up one's cross and follow Him." Christ said the same command in different ways; one way is to be "meek and humble of heart."

How do we love ourselves if we have loved God first? By obeying His commands. Because it is in this way that we are saved and to save ourselves is the greatest act of love we can do for ourselves. He who sins and condemns himself to eternal damnation hates himself. 

And how do we love our neighbor if we truly love God and ourselves. By making our neighbors, husband, wife, children and others obey the commands of Christ. St. Thomas Aquinas said: "In your journey to salvation, make your neighbor walk with you." It is not enough to serve them physically with food and drink and education and other material comforts. You must teach them and make them obey the commands of God found in  both the Old and New Testament. If you don't do this, you do not love your neighbor, you do not love yourself and you do not love God. 

The great spiritual battle going on in the world is that war between love of God and love for the world. Christ clearly said: "Friendship with the world is enmity with God." And the world is surely winning in that most souls have opted to love the world rather than love God. Christ deplored these our times, describing it as a generation that loves money and selves. 

Where and how can we learn the love of God and neighbor? In an atmosphere of discipline and unity. The atmosphere must be such that all the commands of Christ are being observed by all. And there is unity in the quest for holiness among all. Cupidity is the greatest enemy of this atmosphere wherein individuals insist on their own desires rather than the Will of God. And because the world is a place where everyone pursues his own interests, in such an atmosphere, it becomes impossible to love God and neighbor . 

In the early history of the Church, to attain to the knowledge of love of God, Christian monarchs sent their children to monasteries and they, themselves, ended their lives in monasteries or they would invite a holy monk to their castle to supervise the Christian training of their children. St. Thomas More, patron saint of lawyers and of politicians did exactly that. He got very Christian teachers to tutor his children at home; and teachers, children and servants lived a disciplined monastic life at home. 

When we have obeyed all the commands of Christ, thus showing we love God...when we have become deserving of salvation because of our obedience to Christ's commands, thus showing we love ourselves in the right way...when we have made our neighbor obey Christ's commands, thus showing we love our neighbor...then we can say that we love God with all our heart, with all our mind and with all our strength. 

 

 

 

(updated 03-16-02)

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                                                                                        - Teresa of Avila

 


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