Jesus calls love the greatest “commandment.” Have you ever wondered about that?
He tells us that the two greatest commandments are that we love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength, and that we love our neighbor as ourself.
At first, it does not seem to make sense. You cannot “command” someone to love. Love is a powerful emotion! You either feel love or you don’t. People “fall” in love. You can’t tell them to do it.
Here we see the difference between what Jesus means by love and what the world means by love. When we understand God’s love for us, then we understand that the love Jesus commands is more than emotion and passion. It is more than words or feelings.
For Jesus, our love is a response to the love of God — who loves us first and offers his love to us as a gift. In responding to his command to love, we are following God’s will for our lives — that we find happiness and joy in loving others and experiencing God’s love.
Jesus knows that love is not easy. There are people who are not easy to like and who are not easy to love. But his love calls us to move beyond our own comfort, our own prejudices.
That is why Jesus connects the love of God and the love of neighbor, because Jesus knows we cannot really say we love God if we do not love our neighbor. When we close our eyes to our neighbor’s needs, we close our hearts to God.
One of the saints said, “We love God as much as we love the one we love the least.”
That is worth remembering. But we need to remember this, too: Jesus never commands us to do anything he will not help us to do. He never commands us to do anything he has not already shown us how to do. There is no greater model of love than Jesus Christ.
And love is like anything else in our lives. The more we do it, the more it becomes a habit. Practice love and, by the grace of God, it will become perfect in you.
So that means we need to make that decision to love — every day, in every moment. We need to say, “Lord, give me the grace to love — right here and right now. In this situation. With this person.”
This is how the saints approach life. St. John of the Cross used to say, “Where there is no love, put love and you will draw out love.”
Jesus commands us: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The command to love calls us to a new way of living. The more you love, the more you are going to see the world with the eyes of Christ, and the more you are going to think about other people with the mind of Christ.
Once you make that decision to love, you start to see other people not as threats or competitors. You start to see your neighbor as a person who is just like yourself — with the same hopes and dreams and desires.
Love pulls us out of ourselves and opens our hearts to the needs of others. When you love, you stop seeing “others” and you start seeing brothers and sisters. You start to see your neighbor as a child of God, created in the image of God.
The love that Jesus commands is not only a relationship that we have with another person. Christian love is personal, but it is also social. It is the responsibility that we have for others in society — especially those who are vulnerable: the unborn, the widows and orphans; the immigrants and refugees; the poor.
Love for our neighbor demands that we take action to make things right when we find things are wrong. Love means bringing justice wherever we find injustice.
Christian love is always a missionary love. Jesus is counting on our love to change the world.
The command to love sets our life on a path, making our life a way of love. Love is not easy. It takes hard work. But it can be beautiful and it becomes beautiful the more we practice love in our everyday life.
So as we go about our daily lives and carry out our daily duties, let us try to put more love into the world. We can start with those who are closest to us — the people we live with, our families; the people we work with and go to school with. Try to be a little more patient this week, a little more understanding, a little more forgiving.
Pray for me this week and I will be praying for you. And together let us ask our Blessed Mother Mary to pray for us. May she help us this week to do little acts of love, little acts of mercy and kindness. For God. And for our neighbors.