34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.39 And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
Meditation: What is the purpose of God’s law and commandments? The Pharisees prided themselves in the knowledge of the law and the ritual requirements contained in the five Books of Moses (Genesis through Deuteronomy). They made it a life-time practice to study the 613 precepts of the Law of Moses along with the numerous commentaries written by various rabbis. They tested Jesus to see if he correctly understood the law and its requirements as they did. Jesus startled them with his profound simplicity and mastery of the law of God and its purpose. What does God require of us? Simply that we love as he loves! God is love and everything he does flows from his love for us. God’s love tempers everything he does – including his justice, mercy, kindness, and goodness and the way he treats both friend and enemy. God loved us first and our love for him is a response to his exceeding grace and kindness towards us. The love of God comes first and the love of neighbor is firmly grounded in the love of God. The more we know of God’s love and truth the more we love what he loves and reject what is hateful and contrary to his will.
Cyril of Alexandria, a 5th century church father, explains how the love of God orders everything we do.
“Therefore the first commandment teaches every kind of godliness. For to love God with the whole heart is the cause of every good. The second commandment includes the righteous acts we do toward other people. The first commandment prepares the way for the second and in turn is established by the second. For the person who is grounded in the love of God clearly also loves his neighbor in all things himself. The kind of person who fulfills these two commandments experiences all the commandments.”
What makes our love for God and his commands grow in us? Faith in God and hope in his promises strengthens us in the love of God. They are essential for a good relationship with God, for being united with him. The more we know of God the more we love him and the more we love him the greater we believe and hope in his promises. The Lord, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, gives us a new freedom to love as he loves. Do you allow anything to keep you from the love of God and the joy of serving others with a generous heart? Paul the Apostle says: hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us (Romans 5:5). Do you know the love which conquers all?
“Lord Jesus, your love surpasses all. Flood my heart with your love and increase my faith and hope in your promises. Help me to give myself in generous service to others as you have so generously given yourself to me.”
1 I love you, O LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
3 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
4 The cords of death encompassed me, the torrents of perdition assailed me;
46 The LORD lives; and blessed be my rock, and exalted be the God of my salvation,
49 For this I will extol you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.
50 Great triumphs he gives to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his descendants for ever.