One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Why are love of God and love of neighbor the two greatest commandments? Morality only makes sense when we are talking about conscious, morally-free beings. Rocks, trees and squirrels cannot act “morally.” Each human person is a tiny reflection of the infinite, incomprehensible love that is God. If I could truly see you for what you are, I would, as C. S. Lewis somewhere observed, be tempted to fall down and worship before you. If I hate you, I have not even begun to see the God that made and sustains you. Since God “hides” behind his creation, if I reject the light of God reflected in you, I live in the darkness of hate. In that darkness, I have not even begun to understand what the commandments are all about.
—Mark McNeil is the assistant principal for formation at Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston, Texas.
Infinite Love, help me to see you in my neighbor. Help me to see beyond those things that distract me from your light that continuously shines through the people around me every day. I make this prayer through Christ Jesus, who is your invisible love made visible. Amen.
Please share the Good Word with your friends!