Love of God Opens Our Hearts To Love Thy Neighbor
The confrontation and harsh debate continue in today’s gospel. The Sadducees, Herodians and Pharisees all bound together to discredit Jesus and his teachings. They attacked him from every angle. Last Sunday’s gospel, they questioned him about paying taxes to Caesar just to trap him. They were determined to silence him while destroying his reputation.
In today’s gospel, they questioned his orthodoxy and doubt if he understands the proper hierarchy of God’s commandment. He was asked to state which commandment is the greatest. He replied, “You shall love the Lord your God… and … your neighbor...” He reminded them Deuteronomy Chapter 6: 4. This commandment sums up the entire law and prophets. He tells us that we are obliged to love God with our whole heart, strength and mind. This is a smart response to those who claim to be custodians of the law and often without love of neighbor in their hearts. Hatred, malice and violence fills their hearts and minds, keeping them distance from God. Jesus came to change their priority and open their mind to a loving and compassionate God.
Obviously, Jesus’ detractors lack the proper understanding of the real meaning of the first and greatest commandment. For if they did, they would have known that a true love of God opens the heart to love of neighbor. You cannot claim to love God and close your heart to your neighbor. Jesus teaches that love of God and neighbor are inseparable. Therefore, to love God with one’s whole heart implies loving Him with all your power of thought and will and emotion. To love him with your whole soul means, with all the capabilities of your temporal and eternal life. And to love him with your whole mind means loving him with your deepest part of yourself, where the Spirit of God comes to meet us.
The depth of your love for God will determine how engaged you will be in human solidarity. It is the love of God that allows us to accept and relate lovingly with others and as well deal with the ups and downs of life. It fosters the essential ingredient of peaceful existence among people with language, food, religious, geographic and cultural differences. When we love our neighbor, we imitate God’s compassion. Love keeps us from exploiting each other and lack of love provokes violence.
That is why the message is so important today. Jesus speaks to us unequivocally on the greatest of the commandment: love God above all things and, secondly, love of neighbor. The book of Exodus reminds us three categories of dependent people, otherwise unprotected members of society: resident aliens, the fatherless family, and the needy borrower. Most importantly, it calls for a basic respect for others’ rights.
Today our country is struggling on how to best handle immigration. The current policy is inadequate and inhumane. We are a nation of immigrants and cannot just forget her history. Many came here several years ago against their will and were treated with unimaginable cruelty. Some arrived a few years ago, and still many more are making their way through to the shore. Let our nation not forget her past; rather, let her citizens be mindful of all God’s children seeking shelter, freedom, and peace. Let the love of God reign in our heart, mind and soul.
Grace and Peace to You,
Fr. Vitalis Anyanike