Moses has received ten commandments from God, yet the Jewish people understood these commandments to have been a summary of hundreds of precepts. Thus, they have come up with 613 commandments all in all. Three hundred sixty-five of these commandments which is equal to the number of days in a single year, are prohibitions. While 248 of these are laws of direction, one for each bone of our body. Of course, the Jews would try to follow all these laws on the letter. However, because of this great number of commands, they would be challenged to know which among these is the greatest of all commandments. So the Pharisees (the group of Jews who are strict in following the letter of the law) went to Jesus and asked him what does he think is the greatest of all commandments. They did this not really for them to know, but just to trap Jesus, to try him…that is to say, to know if Jesus really is a good follower of the law of Moses. Jesus knew what they have in mind, so as usual he took the opportunity to tell them the real meaning, the true motivation, the foundation of all the commandments. He answered them by synthesizing all the 613 commandments into 2 very important laws: the law of loving God and loving our neighbours as ourselves.
Our mission is to love therefore. This is what Jesus seemed to be saying to the Pharisees. This is also what he has to say to us now: To love God and to love one another as we love ourselves.
Why do have to love? The answer is why not? God has created in love and through love. Thus, this is also our mission…to love. “Love is the one thing” saint Paul says to the Romans (Rom 13:10) “that cannot hurt your neighbours: that is why it is the answer to every one of the commandments.” St James would affirm St Paul saying: “Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme law of the scripture: you must love your neighbour as yourself.”
How do we express our love to God?
Be with him ( in prayers- personal or communal devotion, reading the Sacred Scriptures everyday, reviewing our relationship with him everyday)
Let’s endeavour to be our real selves as we know it, before him. Pretending to be somebody else before Him is a great insult to him because he has created us as a unique person.
Let’s us strive to make him the centre of our lives. This is a great challenge to take because there are many things, persons, events, experiences, and even the circumstances where we are in, that tend to take God out of the picture, out of the drama of our journey through life.
How do we express our love to our neighbours?
Jesus said to love one another…not to love another one. Our first reading today also tells us of the ways to express our love to our neighbours. For instance: ‘If you take another’s cloak as a pledge, you must give it back to him before sunset. It is all the covering he has…what else would he sleep in? This calls us to be concerned to other people in the world. Everytime we throw away leftover food to the bin, have we realized that that ‘waste’ could have been a good single meal for a certain street kid in the Philippines or for a whole family even. Hence, St Paul in our second readings today, reminds us to act really in a Christian way…if we claim to be Christians and proud of it, then we shall express it our actions, in our examples, not to show off but to show that we are really living the Christian values and attitude.
How can we express our love for ourselves?
It is not a selfish way of loving, yet it is another important element that Jesus really has added on in his two-fold command of love. If our mission is to love, we must have that love ourselves so that we’ll have something to give. We just can’t give what we don’t have. Did Jesus love himself? Yes. An example, amidst his busy ministry of preaching, teaching and doing miracles, he really made it sure to have a quiet time for himself, withdrawing himself to pray, to retreat and to get in touch with God. Another way of expressing our love to ourselves is to take care of ourselves.
Now if we say we are in love, how can we stay in love? John Powell, a Jesuit priest writes that the secret to stay in love is DIALOGUE. So to remain in love is to dialogue with God, with our neighbours, with ourselves even. Let’s keep the communication open. Let’s always keep in touch.
So as we go home today let’s ask ourselves: How in love are we to our God? Have we grown in love with our neighbours? Are we taking care of ourselves?