The two “love commandments”: the road map to God’s Kingdom
30th Sunday of Year A (Matt 22:34-40)
October 29, 2017
By Fr. Sal Putzu, SDB
LOVE of God and neighbor was the soul of the Covenant which the Lord had made with His Chosen People. Failure to love God and neighbor was a betrayal of the Covenant and resulted in the creation of victims in the various sectors of society (see the First Reading). All the prophets kept reminding the people about it.
The synthesis of the two loves is also the soul of the New Covenant established by Christ and sealed in his blood. It embodies all the essential requirements of the Old Law, but it is much more demanding because it is situated in the new setting of the Kingdom, and is patterned after the example of Jesus. He is the perfect model of how we should love God and men, for he lived the demands of the two commandments with an intensity and a totality that cost him his very life.
Love of God and neighbor is really the “essence of Christianity.” It is the “golden rule of life” which guides all believers in building up the Kingdom both in themselves and around them.
These two loves are complementary–none of the two is perfect without the other. Love of God is the “first commandment” because God is and should always be “number one.” It grounds and gives meaning to the love of neighbor. It keeps all the elements of the construction together. But love for God finds its necessary and most challenging manifestation in the love for neighbor, as Jesus showed us through his life and death.
St. John–no doubt echoing his Master–spelled out the relatedness and complementariness of the two “Love Commandments” when he stated, “If anyone says, ‘My love is fixed on God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. One who has no love for the brother he sees, cannot love the God he does not see” (1 Jn 4:20). Therefore, “Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn 4:21).
Two loves, one heart, one attitude, then. These two related loves should never be dissociated, never opposed. It is only by keeping these commandments together and by putting them into practice, day by day as Jesus did, that the Kingdom grows and becomes ever more an integral part of our life.