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The First Great Commandment of Love

Posted by frmac on October 22, 2008

This week’s Gospel is probably the best known and most memorized scripture passage in the New Testament. And, rightly so, as it is the teaching of Jesus that most explains who God is, and who we are. Yet, I sometimes wonder if it has lost its punch? Has it become just another religious statement dulled by frequent use and repetition? Let us take a look this week at the ‘First Great Commandment of Love’:

“You Shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”


Two Sides of Coin

I suspect that, if we heard this commandment for the first time, it would pose all kinds of questions back to us: How can we be commanded to love? Isn’t love something that is free and spontaneous? Should love really be an obligation? What earthly difference can it make to God whether we love Him-Her or not? Why does God care if we love Him/Her or not? What real difference does it make?

These are questions we need to ask if we want to truly appreciate the greatness of this first commandment. And, they will require considerable reflection by each one of us, if we wish to personally appreciate the necessity and importance (the greatness) of this commandment.

As human beings we know about love. Love is something we give, share, and experience, and it plays a significant role in each of our life’s journey. The music charts might be a good place to begin an exploration of the importance humans give to love.

Popular Music Charts. Here are four songs from the top hits of today chart that have love in the very title of the Song:

“Bleeding Love” – Leona Lewis

“Love Remains The Same” – Gavin Rossdale

“Love Story” – Taylor Swift

“Love Lockdown” – Kanye West

Here are a few more from the all time time love songs Chart:

“When I Fall In Love” Nat King Cole

“Do You Love Me?” From Fiddler on the Roof

“Saving All My Love for You” – Whitney Houston

“Still in Love With You” – Al Green

“How Deep Is Your Love” – The Bee Gees

“Higher Love” – Steve Winwood

“My Love” – Petula Clark

“Best of My Love” – The Emotions

If you scrutinize the various music charts available on the web today, you will discover that a very high percentage of the songs are about love, and many have love right in the song title. You might want to recall your most cherished songs. How many are in some way about love?

Another thing to do to appreciate the the human experience of love is look at your own life and search your heart and ask: Where is love in my life and how important is it? This question should bring up thoughts of parents, grandparents, spouses, children, friends. You have probably viewed natural disasters on TV and seen survivors telling the story of how they survived, and tearfully rejoicing that their family survived. “Thank God, we all survived,” they sob, “and together we can rebuild again.” What is most important is that they survived, and they know it with great clarity!

*Note I have included an excerpt from an article written by Canadian broadcaster Andrew Krystal of Maritime Morning. It is about his interview with a husband (Dana) and wife Autumn Stringham) on Sept 18, 2007. In the article he reflects on a couple who struggled with bi-polar disease for many years. (wife’s affliction) It is a good example of how love inspires the human heart and gives meaning to life. You will find this quote at the bottom of this post.

Love is very much, indeed, what we are all about, and our faith tradition and scripture support this. Our present Pope Benedict XVIth, echoing this belief, wrote about it in his first encyclical, entitled, ‘God is Love’. I encourage you to read it.

In summary I believe our Christian faith tells us something like this:

God who is love created us.

We are made in the image and likeness of Love.

Love is what we are all about – it is at the very core of being human.

God knew that it would not be easy for us to understand and appreciate God’s love for us, so God came to demonstrate this love in the person of Jesus. When we look to the Cross we experience how strong and significant a love God has for us. He died for us! It was Jesus who said, “What greater love has any man, than he lay down his life for another.” When we hear this statement we recognize how true it is? Who is it that we would give our life for, we might ask? It truly is the ultimate gift!

Now back to our questions:

We’ll never fully prove or comprehend that God is love by ourselves, but we have God’s word, and that is why we need Jesus and the gift of the Spirit.

We can experience the importance of love in our lives with a little reflection. This experience supports our faith claim that we were created in the image and likeness of love.

Ultimately, our God created us to know love, to have love, and to give love. This is who we are, and of course God knows this because God created us. God who is love needs – wants to do everything possible to help us be who we were created to be. Thus, God even commands us to Love God because this is why we were created. We were created to live in a union of love with God. Love is what we were created for, and God knows that we will never find peace or happiness, if we don’t. Thus, God gave us the ‘First Great Commandment of Love’ before he died on a cross for us:

“You Shall Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”

Note: To fully appreciate this first commandment we also need to reflect on what it means for us to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind. You might want to reflect on this yourself, and it will be a topic of a future homily, as will, the Second Great Commandment of Love. First, however we need to appreciate the importance and significance of Love in human life, as it helps us understand who we are and who God is. This helps us understand why we must live by ‘God’s Ways’.

*Words of Andre Krystal

“One such survivor in my studio today is a woman whose name is Autumn Stringam. Her husband Dana also accompanied her. Married 16 years, Autumn tormented herself and her family while suffering from Bipolar disorder until finally finding a cure in the form of mood stabilizing mineral supplements (more on that later).

“What shocked me the most was how full of love were her husband’s eyes. Sitting in the studio, as he looked at her, it was as if he was seeing her for the first time; about him was the urgency of anticipation tempered by an understanding and a closeness that you could feel and that was humbling to witness –- and inspiring; a man who had endured so much simply loved her that much more — and she him.

All I know now was what, in my studio today, I had witnessed: a woman with strong personal and anecdotal experience who overcame bipolar disorder and a husband and a family that bore witness to her transformation.

But the love in her husband’s eyes is also a cure. He would still look at her the same way no matter what. I bet he had those same eyes all the while she was ill. And when he smiles at her with his eyes today they seem to mist over into almost different colors because they shine so; they shine at her; they shine for her.

Now that is worth living for.”

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