Most likely you have heard someone say, “I love your outfit. The colors look well on you” Or perhaps, “I love that piece of music. It seems to calm me.” We know that these statements of “love” actually refer to more meaningful words such as “like” or “appreciate.” In fact, there seems to be a growing misuse of the word “love.” Do the words “like” and “appreciate” seem to interplay with the word “love” and then get mixed up?
What does the word “love” truly mean? In the Gospel for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matt. 22:34-40) Jesus attempts to put the word/idea into context.
One of the Pharisees, a lawyer no less, asks him if he could sum up the Jewish Law because there appear to be so many rules and regulations. Without doubt, a verbal trap. Jesus replies by saying that the Law could be summed up in two commandments. No doubt this statement raised a few eyebrows.
“He said to him, ‘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. And a second is like it. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
What does this mean? Jesus said that to love God one must love him completely with heart, soul, and mind. This strongly suggests that this love is prompted by feeling, that is to say that it is “internal,” quite likely the expression of gratitude for the many blessings received and yet to come.
But this internal love becomes “external” when it leads to action, such as deeds of justice, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and everything else that expresses the teachings of Jesus.
That is to say, that loving God completely for all his gifts and blessings (internal) is manifested (external) in the ways that I treat my neighbor. Consequently, the law is summed up by loving God and loving neighbor. Both are part of the same dynamic.
It seems t0 me that we could appreciate this dynamic by focusing our intention on our Baptism. Why? Our Baptism reminds us of the Sinai covenant where God established a mutual relationship with Israel. Moses is the middleman. Through Moses God said to the Israelites, “Now, therefore, If you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples….” (Exodus 19:5)
Israel was to keep the covenant, and God would protect his people. A mutual commitment. The covenant contained the Ten Commandments which includes responsibilities to God and to people. Our Baptism makes the same demands from us. Consequently, love of God and love neighbor sum up all of our responsibilities.
Now that the feast of Thanksgiving is verging on the horizon, this would be a good time to recount all of our gifts and blessings and begin anew the love of God and neighbor.