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This comes from a child’s letter to God……Dear God: I bet it is very hard for you to love all of every body in the whole world. There are only four in our family and I can never do it.
Cole Porter in 1929 wrote a song titled “What is this thing called love?” one of the lines in this song says “that’s why I asked the Lord in heaven above what is this thing called love?” I wonder if our current day definition of love is what Jesus is talking about. Maybe it’s Nan’s.
In the previous chapters in Matthew’ gospel we see the scribes and Pharisees posing many questions to Jesus trying to find fault with him and his teachings, basically attempting to discredit him. In today’s Gospel we find a scholar of the law, one of the Pharisees, asking Jesus which commandment is the greatest law? The Pharisee knew what the answer should be. So the response from Jesus came as no surprise. It is from the “Shema” the Jewish prayer that forms the basic and essential creed of Judaism. It is the sentence with which every Jewish service shall open and the first text which every Jewish child still commits to memory. It says “ Hear O, Israel I am the Lord thy God, the Lord alone. Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your might.” (Deut 6: 4-5)
Now Jesus added a second part that was not expected. “ You shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Lord.” (Lev.19 vs 18.)
The Pharisees had boiled all the laws of the Old Testament down to 613 precepts that the Jews had to keep. Jesus in his teachings does them one better; he took all the laws and brought them down to two. He taught “keep these two commandments and you will keep all the laws. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Jesus teaches, while the First Commandment is the greatest in the law, the second commandment is how we show that love. The First Commandment, as do the words of the Shema, stresses the commitment of the whole person with mind, body, and soul. God asks for nothing less. Jesus tells us we can hold nothing back.
In Luke ‘s Gospel (10: vs 29) we see the same story, but the questioner asks one more question. He asked Jesus the question “who is my neighbor?” Jesus answers with the story of the Good Samaritan. Today we do not hear the Good Samaritan story but we do hear its meaning in the first reading. It talks of the poor, orphans, widows, the aliens or immigrants who should be in our care. The consequences of doing wrong to them and others what we would not want done to ourselves are dire.
Jesus tells us in the Gospel to love God and our neighbor. We learn to love God by loving our neighbor. St Augustine of Hippo tells us: It has the hands to help others….It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy….
it has the eyes to see misery and want….
.It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men and women…….
This is what love looks like
I am still not sure this would answer Mr. Porter’s question. But it is a great start to realizing where we can find the answer.
In ourselves …