Summary: If the order is mixed up, problems happen


In our First Reading and Gospel text today, Moses and Jesus are both effectively asked for their respective elevator pitches: “Tell me everything I need to know what you believe and teach in two minutes or less.” Jesus was asked what was the number 1 commandment and he names it as one-in-three parts—what I like to call the “Relationship Triad” of Loving God, Loving Neighbor, and Loving self, in that order.

If the order is mixed up, problems happen as seen in one of the Peanuts’ comic strips which had Linus telling his sister Lucy that he wanted to be a doctor when he grew up. Lucy responded in her usual cynical way by saying, “You, a doctor? That’s a laugh. Do you know why you couldn’t be a doctor? Because you don’t love humankind.” Linus thought about this for a moment and then said, “I do love humankind. It’s people I can’t stand.”

The good news is that even where human love was lacking, if we stick to God’s relationship triad, we can live free and happy and have a faith that works-

1. Loving God—“With all your Heart”--The fifteen-inch journey from the head to the heart can be a very long one. The heart is the inner depths of a person, the wellspring from which all our decisions and actions flow. The Mass is celebrated for God, on his account, as an act of profound worship directed to Him. It’s not an exercise for the people, our job is to turn our minds and hearts toward God and offer ourselves with Christ.

ii. Loving God “With all our Soul”- means our whole self as a living being, that which Jesus said we must be willing to give up for his sake and which he will give up for our sake. In Hebrew this word also means breath. Love God with every breath you take; with all your “desire, yearning and craving.”

Our souls live forever. The soul has the faculties of intellect and will. The Catechism in paragraph 2040 says that we will have our intellectual powers in heaven. Talk about intellectually sharp! The Catechism says, “We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and of the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which [God’s] Providence led everything toward its final end.”

What a comfort to know that every single person among the faithful who has lost a love one, a child, or suffered terribly in this life, will know how “all things work together for good to those who love God” as St. Paul says in Romans 8:28. We will see all of this in God, in heaven. [source: Tim Staples, Catholic Answers].

For those in hell, they will know that they chose by their unrepentant sin to live eternally separated from God.

iii. Loving God with all our Mind- means to guard our thoughts and reasoning and imagination being animated by our love for God.

iv. All our strength- speaks of the commitment that calls for every ounce of our energy. The Hebrew word is usually an adverb that means “very.” Love God with all your “veryness and muchness.”

2. After we love God in those four ways, we are ready to love our neighbor as our self –

The revelation in Christ of the mystery of God as Trinitarian love is at the same time the revelation of the vocation of the human person to love. This revelation sheds light….on our “social nature.” John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem, 7.(1988)

Love from the Catholic perspective is other-directed and, ultimately, is always intended to bring us closer to God.

Loving neighbor frees us from preoccupation with the self and the problems of the self, from self-destructive emotions (like bitterness, rage, the rumination of resentments, despair), from lack of purpose, and from loneliness or isolation.

Unconditional love, called “Agape,” is an active concern for the neighbor's well-being, which is somehow independent of particular actions of the other.

This means in part that we are called not to let disparities and inequalities determine his or her basic attitudes towards others amongst others with whom he or she interacts.

Divine agape flows downward through the believer to the anonymous neighbor. All that can be agape derives from God.

3. Self-love is so ordinary that Jesus used it as a reference point: Love your neighbor as you love yourself.“

"Notice how you love yourself,” he said, “and love your neighbor in the same way.”

When I was in elementary school, the teacher sometimes solved the first problem on a sheet of homework to show us how the others were solved. Jesus used our love for ourselves in the same way.

Yet, the love of self is a particular challenge—

In between the extremes of self-effacement and self-aggrandizement are found the diverse styles of authentic love of self, involving the capacity for self-possession and care for self.

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