‘Love’ is a word used most frequently in everyday life. What does it really mean? We may be functioning as humanitarian social workers, but would that make us Christians? Would our ‘good deeds’ reflect our attitude towards God?
Six hundred and thirteen precepts of the Jewish laws are summed up in the Gospels in one single commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Our love for others must flow from the divine fountain, God's love. We are abled to love others because, in the first instance, God has loved us. Love gives meaning to our Christian life.
The Yiddish writer, Isaac Loeb Peretz, tells us the following story:
A Rabbi used to disappear from the synagogue for a few hours on every day of Atonement. One of his followers, suspecting that he was secretly meeting the Almighty, followed him. He watched the Rabbi putting on coarse peasant clothes and taking care of an invalid woman in a cottage, cleaning up her room and preparing food for her. When the follower returned to the synagogue, he was queried by the others, “Did the Rabbi ascend to heaven?" He replied, "It was much higher!” He thus laid emphasis on the Rabbi's joyful service, on his reaching God through love for men.
According to Jesus, there is actually only one commandment which embodies all others, namely, love; once our life is governed by love of God and of one another all other laws become futile.
It is only through love of our neighbour that we reach God; only in loving others that we love God. Hence, we have only one commandment: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” (Jn. 15:12) When Jesus said ‘love your neighbor’ he meant that we should view things more with the heart than with the head. It is, of course, easy to love our friends and people whom we like. It is easy to offer love in good and favourable circumstances. However, Christian love demands courage and sacrifice, forgiveness, acceptance, even loving those who hate us.
Fr. Philip Tan CDD