The essence of the Covenant between God and Israel is expressed through the Ten Commandments. To ensure that the Israelites would follow them, the Pharisees multiplied them into 613 positive and negative laws. There were too many commandments to follow and because they were confusing they became a burden to bear for the people.
Jesus’ answer to the question “Which is the greatest commandment” is a quotation from two passages in the Old Testament:
1) Dt. 6:5 as the greatest commandment “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” It is called the “Shemah Israel or “Listen Israel”.
2) Lev. 19:18 as the second greatest commandment “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Although they were quotations from the Old Testament, Jesus introduced a new way of looking at them: First, the hinge or the meaning of any commandment is Love! Second, Jesus put the two commandments together as an inseparable unity. The two commandments are just like the two sides of one coin which is love.
Why do we have to love God? Because God is love and he has loved us first. God translates this divine love through our human experience of being loved. Under normal circumstances, all of us are the fruits of the overflowing love between our father and mother. From the moment of our conception till birth we have experienced this magnificent love most especially from our mothers. During our childhood and our growing years, we were the recipients of love from people around us like our families and friends.
I felt the tremendous love of God through the extraordinary love my family gave. Being the youngest, I felt I was the center of the family’s affection and that’s how I believe that I am the center of God’s affection. I felt so loved by God because my family love me very much. Now it is my turn to give this love back to the source who is God.
Why do we have to love others as our self? Simply because God loves them as he loves us. 1 Jn. 4:20 reminds us that if we say we love God but we hate our brother, we are liars! Because if we cannot love our brother whom we can see, then how can we love God whom we cannot see? In romantic love, we fall in love with the other person because we feel attracted to his/her goodness or good qualities. It is the magnet of love that draws us to the other person. In our love to our parents, siblings, friends and even to humanity, it is the goodness in us that overflows and seeks to be shared. This is called charity which is love in action. St. Paul reminds that there are three things that will last: faith, hope, charity and the greatest of these is charity (1 Cor 13:13). He also reminds us of the futility of things without love. “If can speak the tongues of angels, have all the prophetic knowledge, give all my possessions, but do not have love, I gain nothing…” (1Cor 1:1-3).
It is not enough to say “Dear God, I love you with all my heart” if we cannot say “I love you” to our parents, spouses, friends and others who are part of our lives. It is not also enough to be saying I love you to God nor to others if we cannot translate it as concrete charity through our good works to others. Don’t wait for tomorrow to do this, do it now because tomorrow may never come… GOD LOVES YOU!