31st Week in Ordinary Time
Deut 6:2-6; Heb 7:23-28; Mark 12:28b-34
The Greatest Commandment / live to love & love to live
Maybe for the first time, we hear in the Gospel reading today, that the Lord Jesus does not reproach the scribe. He even declares that the scribe is not far from the kingdom of God when he affirms the Lord’s notion of the greatest commandment to be the love of God followed by the love of neighbor as oneself. If the scribe really understood the greatest commandment, why did Jesus only commend him as to be near or not far from the kingdom and not already in the kingdom?
It is one thing to know and another to actualize the knowledge. Aelred of Rievaulx gives 3 steps in the dynamics of love: the conscious choice, the application to action, and the fruition. It is humanly possible: 1) to consciously and intentionally love, i.e., to love with one’s whole mind, 2) to bring this internal desire to external actual application, i.e., to love with one’s heart and strength, and 3) to finally enjoy the fulfillment of what is sought because human beings are created according to the likeness of God — the creator who loves. So naturally, the greatest human desire is the union with God the creator. To love God is to love all that God loves. This is also the key for self-love to not be selfish but even be the rightful measure on how to love others, who like the self are God’s beloved creatures.
The dynamics of the greatest commandment get us into the dynamics of the Holy Trinity. In our refectory book, the late Jesuit Superior General, Fr. Pedro Arrupe, wrote that the love of God and of neighbor are “not two parallel loves, nor is love of neighbor a subordinate love. It is the two sides of one love, as one is the love within the Trinity and one the love with which Christ loves the Father and humankind.”
Early this morning at Vigils, we also heard how St Francis de Sales explains that “It is one and the same charity that gives birth to acts of love for our God and for neighbors. Jacob saw it was one and the same ladder that touches heaven and earth and that the angels use to ascend and descend. That shows how one single charity cherishes both God and neighbor. It raises us to spiritual union with God and it brings us down to love and share with neighbors. … Each person is made in the image and likeness of God and each has been created to share God’s goodness, God’s grace, and joy in God’s glory. To love neighbors is to love God in them and love them in God.”
He further describes that as we all are God’s children; we all share in God’s own goodness, grace, and glory. We all exist for God. We exist from God. We exist through God. We exist in God. We exist unto God. We resemble God in a very special way. “This is why divine love not only commands us, and repeatedly, to love our neighbor but produces this love in us and pours it into our hearts and our actions.”
It may be easy for us to see how the Lord Jesus manifests love in the cross with which we can also illustrate the dynamics of our love. We relate vertically with God and horizontally with one another. But let us see how St Francis of Assisi uses the Tau (T) Cross that takes the cross-like love to another level: the horizontal bar of love with one another and all of God’s creation reaches the summit of perfection, to top of the vertical bar of love in the love of God. Or we may say it is our love for one another and all of God’s creation that expresses our love for God the Creator. Or also that it is only pure love if our relationship with one another takes us to God.
May we continue to ever indiscriminately actualize the love we have come to know as someone first loved by God and one among His beloved children and creation. Let us beg the Lord Jesus to strengthen us so we may live to love and love to live.