The Laws and the Prophets
A lawyer asked Jesus which was the greatest of all the laws. There were 613 of them in Hebrew Scripture. Which was the most important?
Jesus responded to the lawyer’s question with two quotations from the Torah. The first quotation came from the Sacred Jewish Prayer called the Shema Israel. This was a prayer contained in the sixth chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy 6:5 and recited by pious Jews every morning and evening, "Hear this, O Israel, Shema Israel, God is One. You shall love your God with your whole heart, your whole soul and your whole mind." The second quotation came from the Book of Leviticus, 19:18, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We can't just love God part time, we have to love Him with everything we have. We can't just be good to our neighbor sometimes, we have to treat our neighbors in the same way that we care for ourselves.
The heart of Christian morality is the desire to love God fully, completely, for whom He is and to love others for whom they are, unique reflections of God's love. We can see an analogy in the love we must have in the love that good parents have for their children. Parents don't love their children because they are afraid that if they don't love their children God will punish them. Parents love their children for whom they are, expressions of their married love, loving them back. Parents don't love their children due to their looks, talents, or intelligence. Parents love their children because they are their children. Parents don't try to find the minimal amount of love they have to have to be good parents. Parents continually give their love because they know their children need their love to survive.
Jesus is not calling us to be minimalists. He is calling us to love God and neighbor completely, without counting the cost.
Let’s go back to the Shema Israel. God wants us to love him with our whole mind, our whole heart, and our whole soul.
"Give me you mind," the Lord says, "Don't just think about me when it is convenient for you. Don't destroy your minds with evil thoughts. No, give me your whole minds," the Lord says. "Are you distressed? Do you despair? Have your children or your parents, relatives or friends hurt you? It will be alright. Give me your mind, love me with your thoughts and I will transform your thoughts to my way of thinking. I will give you wisdom."
"Give me you hearts," the Lord says. He wants our whole hearts. He wants us to love him with every part of ourselves, even those parts that are empty and need love. He wants us to love him by loving others, spouses, children, parents, neighbors. He doesn't want part of our hearts. He wants all of our hearts. If there is a part of our love that we cannot share with God, such as the love a married person may have for someone else, then this itself is not real love because God is not in that love. The only love that is real is the love that gives. This is the love that God wants us to have for each other. This is the love where he is present. Loving God with our whole heart is really loving our
neighbors as ourselves because it is loving as God loves.
God wants our whole soul. God wants all those qualities that distinguish us from animals. He wants our ability to love and to think, but also our ability to imagine, our ability to choose, our ability to express ourselves as individuals, our ability to be who we are, created in his image and likeness.
Shema Israel. You shall love the Lord with your whole mind, your whole hearts and your whole soul. If we want to have meaning in our lives, if we want to die knowing that we have been faithful to the whole reason we have been created, then we have to give all we have back to God.
The lawyer asks, "What does God want from us?"
Jesus answers, "He wants it all."
As we prepare to celebrate the Eucharistic Prayer, the sacrifice of Jesus' love on the cross, the total gift of Himself to the Father, His expression of how far He will go to love us, we pray that we might have the courage to love God with our whole hearts, our whole minds and our whole soul.
And then love our neighbors as ourselves, reflections of God’s presence in the world.