We Love, Because He First Loved Us

“We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. This is the commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:19-21). With these words that we find in the first letter of Saint John, he teaches us how important it is what Jesus says in today’s gospel: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. (Matthew 22:37-39).
They asked Jesus: which commandment in the law is the greatest? Jesus, instead of one commandment he lists two:  Love the Lord, love your neighbor. Jesus does not add anything new to what has been already there. The first is taken from Deuteronomy (6:5): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might,” and the second, from Leviticus (19:18): “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

So, we are dealing with commandments that are already known. But there is something new in what Jesus said. Where is the novelty in it? The newness is in the fact that Jesus approached these two precepts as though fusing them into one, declaring that upon them “depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:40). In other words, the will of God, as revealed in the whole of Scripture, can be condensed into the double precept of love for God and love for neighbor.

God took a mortal body, born as a baby and remains in the Eucharist, to make himself close to every human being and reveal his infinite love for us. He knows that we the creatures are badly in need of love to live well. This life of love is possible only when we love the Lord with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.  Jesus teaches us that the only way to measure the love is to love without measure.

He says that the second is like the first. Love your neighbor as you love your Lord. The neighbor is like God. This is the revolution of Jesus: your neighbor has the face and voice and heart like God!  You shall love your neighbor as yourself. It is almost like a third commandment that is forgotten: Love yourself because you are like a prodigy on whom is imprinted the image of God. If you don’t love yourself, you cannot love others. You will know only to take and possess, to flee or to violate and to live without joy and gratitude. If you wish love and peace for yourself, you will be able to offer it to others. If you long for justice and respect for yourself, you will first need to give it to others.

The best way to keep this commandment of Jesus is living humbly as children of God, doing his will in practice thus in the honor and praise of living, God may be glorified in us. For the glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. Anyone who welcomes the Lord into his life and loves him with all his heart is capable of a new beginning.  He succeeds in doing God’s will: to bring about a new form of existence enlivened by love and destined for eternity.

When the whole of man’s being is, so to speak, mingled with God’s love, the splendor of his soul is also reflected in his external aspect. Love is an excellent thing, it makes every difficulty easy, and bears all wrongs with calmness. Love tends upward; it will not be held down by anything low because love is born of God, it flows into our heart and from our heart to our neighbor’s heart and cannot rest except in God.

~Fr. Augusty