|Love God...Love Neighbor|
Then one of the lawyers, who had been listening to these discussions and had noted how well he answered, came forward and asked him, 'Which commandment is first of all?' Jesus answered, 'The first is, "Hear, O Israel; the Lord your God is the only Lord; 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: "Love your neighbour as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.' The lawyer said to him, 'Well said, Master, You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other. And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself - is far more than any burnt offerings or sacrifices.' When Jesus saw how sensibly he answered, he said to him, 'You are not far from the Kingdom of God.' Mark 12:28-34
This lawyer, who would have been an expert in religious detail, has been listening to Jesus manage these religious guys who have been messing with him. We might get the feeling he's trying to be tricky too, asking Jesus which of the more than 600 religious laws is the most important. We have no indication whether Jesus thinks the fellow is friend or foe, he simply gets to the point and uses the question to teach.
We must remember now, Jesus doesn't invent any new commandment; his revolution is putting two commandments together: Love God with everything you've got and love people. Jesus knows how we complicate things (maybe especially in religion) and so he gives us a spiritual way of love and simplicity.
But to love can't be a command. No one can force love; it must be free. I can however, line up my own will with the command. The desire to love is already to love. By desire, I've already set myself on the right course. And I can ask God to teach me to love rightly. Catholics have the lives of the saints to encourage us: not that I would copy the saints so much as strive to become the saint God has dreamed me (you) to be. Love doesn't require heroics.
In choosing these two commandments Jesus is also telling us that religion has got to be about relationship - with God and with others. Religion is not a private affair. People who fall in love open themselves to the words of the other. They open their arms, hearts, minds to the other. They can bare their souls - their past, their wounds, their flaws. To fall in love is to accept the love of the other. I can love God and others because I know fundamentally that I am loved first by God - even (or especially) in my imperfections and incompleteness. How wonderful is this!
How will I know if I'm really a loving person? I have to go beyond surface-y living (which the culture invites) and get very honest with myself. Love is not a sentiment or a wish, but rather, yielding self-interest, it actively makes good happen for the other.
I would add that love breaks out of the little orbit of those immediately around me. Love doesn't just look, but it sees. "Lord, I want to see," the blind man says to Jesus. (Luke 18:41-42) Perhaps looking is a function of the eyes, while seeing is a function of the heart.
Jesus gives us the key to life here, saying to the lawyer: "You are not far from the Kingdom of God." Which is to say, "You're getting close to allowing God to rule your life." So what would be next for the fellow? To go and do it.
that we would be freed
of all the distractions and obsessions,
and learn simply to love God and other people.