Today we see Jesus surrounded by Pharisees. The situation is similar to a group of reporters hounding a political candidate; everyone shouting questions. Then a lawyer comes forward.
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?” It’s a tricky question. The law had 613 commandments. 248 do’s and 365 do-nots. Jesus quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy.
“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, your soul and your strength.” Nothing surprising. The Jews knew this. But what startles them is the second commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
It alarms them because the neighbor is the despised Samaritan. The idolatrous Gentile. The enemy. Jesus weds the second commandment to the first. “Live these two and you will live them all. Live these two and you are doing God’s will.”
But Jesus doesn’t leave it there. Later, he elaborates on it even further. Remember the Last Supper? Surrounded by His disciples, he tells them a new commandment: “Love one another, as I have loved you.”
So now, He says that our love for one another must mirror Jesus’ love for us. And how did He love us? We can count the ways. He became human. He healed the sick and raised the dead. He comforted the afflicted, the hungry, the thirsty; those who didn’t have a place to lay their head. He walked the long, dusty roads of Palestine. Each word, each gesture was shaped with love.
All of this love culminated in the greatest act of love: His crucifixion. But even His crucifixion is not enough. He never stops giving. He gives of His very self. How many times have we heard the words, “This is My Body, given for you?”
What does it all mean to you? How is it possible today to love God above all things? The best way is to not just know about God, but to know God. To have, in some way, experienced Him. To have Him touch your life.
My friends, get to know God. You cannot love someone you don’t know. And how do we get to know God? First, we have to communicate with Him. We call that prayer. We must communicate with Him if we are to get to know Him.
I think most of us try very hard to follow those two great commandments. But in the past few years, it seems that, too often, we read about common graves and unspeakable cruelty. And we might ask ourselves, “When will it all end?”
Perhaps, every once in a while, we all simply need to recall the words of Jesus. The words of the One who died for every single one of us:
“This is my commandment: That you love one another as I have loved you.”
Remember – that is not a suggestion. It is a command.