Mission Society of the Philippines



Mk 12: 28b-34


IN THE GOSPEL passage today, we heard of a conversation of Jesus with a scribe. The question of the latter was, which of the commandments is considered as the greatest. Jesus answered him: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, as well as love your neighbor as yourself. Then Jesus commented, “There is no other commandment greater than these.” Jesus summarizes the commandments in just one word: LOVE.

The image of the cross can help us to understand these commandments to love. The cross has both a vertical point and a horizontal point. On the one hand, our love should be directed toward God, thus, toward a vertical direction. On the other hand, this love should also be directed toward our neighbor, thus, a horizontal direction. These two are bound together. The truthfulness of our love of God can be seen in the way how we deal with others.

Let us try to reflect further on this.

Firstly, Jesus teaches us the importance of our obligation to love God. Our love for God should be unconditional, and whole. 'Heart', 'soul' and 'strength' refer not so much to separate capacities, but together communicate a loving commitment that engages the totality of a person. That simply means that we should love God unconditionally and totally. This poses a great challenge to believers nowadays because modern people turn, perhaps unconsciously, to other ‘gods’ at the expense of the true God. St John Paul II often criticized the tendency of modern people to worship wealth and riches, and thus, the true God is being forgotten.

Some years ago, I have come across a story of a wealthy Singaporean doctor (named R. Teo). At a young age of 40, he died due to lung cancer. Before his death, he gave a talk to young students of medicine in Singapore and he had some words for our reflection. He said that he was influenced by the media which push people to become successful. However, success is measured by the wealth we possess. He said that there is nothing wrong with being rich because riches are blessings from God. Some people are blessed with good wealth but the trouble is they could not handle it. According to him, “The more we have, the more we want; the deeper the hole we dig, the more we get sucked into it”.  He noticed that “instead of worshipping God, some people worship wealth.” He emphatically said that true joy cannot be found in wealth, but in our relationship with God. Thus, loving God is a source of true joy.

Secondly, corollary to the love of God is the love of neighbor. Jesus said, “The second commandment is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’”. The implication of the words of Jesus is this: we naturally love ourselves. If there is the first priority in our personal lives, it is ourselves. If there is the first person that we love, it is ourselves. But the question is, can we translate that love of oneself to others?

Loving our neighbor is the most effective proof that we love God. We, people, have a common humanity, and therefore we should be inclined to love and help our fellowmen, our neighbors. In his first encyclical, Deus Caritas Est, Pope emeritus Benedict XVI reminds us that Christian love, takes us beyond selfishness to a concern and care for the other. The one who loves wants to be there for the other. The Pope further reminds us that Eucharistic communion “includes the reality of being loved and of loving others in return.”

In sum, the first commandment is love of God, while the second commandment is love of neighbor. These two commandments are bound together; they are two sides of one and the same coin. Thus, our love of God must be reflected in our relationship with others. We cannot split them. Our love and care for others should be seen as a reflection of our love of God. Indeed, this remains a challenge for all of us. AMEN.

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