Sometimes I think we make our religion and faith too complicated. In the Gospel today, Jesus is asked, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” We are familiar with the ten commandments, but in addition to those, there were over 600 other commandments in the laws. So again, his enemies were trying to trick him. He clearly summarizes them in the two great commandments. Deuteronomy: “You shall love your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul and with all your mind;” and the second quotation from the book of Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Both of these commandments are written in the imperative mode. They carry the force of an obligation. The other way the two are alike is that they both require the same kind of love. In Greek there are two words that appear for the translation of the word love. One is philia which involves emotion and feelings, and is more spontaneous. This usually applies to family and friends. The other word is agape, which includes family and friends but goes far beyond to include casual acquaintances, total strangers and even to our enemies. This is the word Jesus uses to apply to God with your entire being and your neighbor as yourself.
Since feelings cannot be mandated, our Lord is talking about the second kind of love. This is an act of the will, something we do in spite of our feelings. It is obviously a choice, a commitment, and is unconditional. It works for the highest good of the one to whom we are addressing. That is how God loves us and that is how we are commanded to love him and all other people. That certainly simplifies what religion and faith is all about. Now the problem becomes, how do we live that out? “Jesus, help me to live what I say I believe.”
Love, Peace, Joy