"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.
We are living in challenging times. We are dealing with a difficult economic situation, with inflation impacting all of us. We hear over and over the perils of global warming. We recently lived through a pandemic. And now wars are flaring up around the globe.
It's easy to get so caught up in this kind of news that we lose heart. Jesus says to each one of us today: Don’t lose heart. Don’t lose heart.
If you are focused on the world's problems, he tells us you are focused on the wrong thing. The most important commandment our God has given us is to LOVE.
Jesus is saying our call in life is to love God and each other … period.
The good news of our faith is that this love we are called to is not one way. God never gives up on us. God never stops loving us. He is always seeking us out, patiently offering His love for us. When we love God with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole soul, when loving God and each other becomes the focus of our lives, the problems of the world fade into the background.
The love Jesus speaks of is not mere sentiment. He is asking us to make a total commitment to God, to love God and each other, to make this the focus of our lives.
He is calling us to make loving God our highest priority. And then to express that love through loving actions towards others. If we truly love God, we will love everyone God loves, even those who are, for us, rather unlovable.
About 100 years after the time of Christ, a non-Christian named Aristides wrote to Emperor Hadrian describing how the early Christians lived. Listen to these words. They tell us what we are called to be like.
Aristides said to the Emperor, "Christians love one another. They never fail to help widows. They save orphans from those who would hurt them. If a Christian person has something, he gives to a person who has nothing. If they see a stranger, Christians invite them to come into their home and consider them a brother or a sister. If they see someone who is ill or someone who is in prison, they go visit them. If they hear that one of them is in great tribulation, they will give that person all that he or she needs. These Christians are a new kind of people. They seem to be filled with the Spirit of God! There is something Divine in them.”
This description by Aristides is what we, as followers of Christ, are called to be. That is what Jesus is talking about today: loving our God and loving each other. If we make that our priority, it changes us. We see the world differently. We live out our call to LOVE. It may not change the world, but it will undoubtedly change us; it will change OUR WORLD.
Loving our neighbor as ourselves means seeing and treating others with the respect and love that God gives them.
As Christians, we don't want to waste our lives. We know in our hearts that what Jesus says today is true.We know Jesus is right when he says the only path to life is loving God and our neighbor as ourselves. We want to do something and not just talk about it.
So what are we to do?
First, we must let God's love enfold us. In the embrace of him, who sees everything yet loves us nonetheless, we find the power to act. The power to give ourselves to one another. And in doing that, we'll find the joy we long for.
Trust in God’s love for you. Trust the full extent of it. Let him enfold you completely, and the power to love with all your heart will follow. Living in this world of love, it becomes much easier to – as the great saint Padre Pio said – pray, hope, and don't worry.
Always remember God loves you and wants your love in return.