Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Sunday's readings can be found: [HERE]
Many of us are familiar with the so-called, “Golden Rule,” from the seventh chapter of Matthew: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s one way of expressing the second greatest commandment; which we heard in our gospel passage today, from the twenty-second chapter of Matthew.
When asked which commandment in the law is the greatest, our Lord replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus tells us that the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. He’s talking about what is called the TaNaK, an acronym using the Hebrew letters, teth, nun, and koph: teth for the Torah, which is the first five books of the bible; nun representing the Neviim, referring to the prophets; koph for the Ketuvim, referring to the other sacred writings like wisdom literature. That’s the entire Old Testament of the bible; the old Covenant.
But Jesus, as you know, came to give us a new and eternal Covenant. And with a new covenant comes a new commandment: the first and greatest commandment is still the same: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
That God now has a human face, and a name by which we can address him: Jesus Christ. But the second commandment is different. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," is obsolete. It's not good enough for the disciple. It is no longer, “love your neighbor as yourself,” but rather: love your neighbor more than yourself.
On the night before he died, when Jesus instituted a new and eternal covenant, he said to his closest disciples: “A new commandment I give to you; as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you… This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…”
We remember how he loved us: for our sake and for our salvation, he came down from heaven... for our sake he was crucified, died, and was buried. We pray that each week in the Creed.
[Gesturing to the Crucifix] This is what it means to love one’s neighbor more than oneself. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
Christ's commandment should give us pause, when we think of it objectively. God is the source of all love. He is love itself; and in himself, he is a community of divine love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, existing for all ages. And so, Jesus is telling us: as much as God is the very essence of love, he has loved us. And we are called to do and be likewise.
This is impossible, because you and I are mortal. There ought to be a natural reaction of feeling overwhelmed by such a daunting commandment. After all, I am not God. I am not the eternal and infinite source of love. It was not my love that created the heavens and the earth. It’s not my love that keeps the universe in existence. It’s not possible for me to love anyone—or anything—with the very infinity of God—unless it is God himself who becomes the agent of love within me.
When God dwells within me truly, and it is God who is loving within me, then I can obey our Lord’s commandment. Blessedly, Jesus gave us not only the commandment to love, but the means, as well; specifically, through the sacraments. Through the sacraments, we receive the divine nature. When we were baptized, we each became one in Christ.
We were reborn into one body. God’s spirit became incarnate within us, and we spend our lives bringing that seed of eternity to maturity.
That’s the entire purpose of our spiritual life as Catholics. Like John the Baptist, I must decrease; Christ must increase—in me. Like Saint Paul, my life’s aspiration ought to be, to one day make his same boast: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I live now, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”
Our world today can often seem to be a godless one, with so many fractures in society, and ruptures in relationships, all caused by a lack of authentic love and concern in our communities. It doesn’t have to be that way.
We each can shore up what’s lacking in our neighborhoods and social circles when we truly love others as we have been loved by our redeemer; when we live at cost to ourselves; when our love looks like this [Again gesturing to the Crucifix]. That begins here in the Eucharist. May God grant us the desire to incarnate, and bring to maturity, the love that we receive.