Imagine trying to wrap your mind around the fact that the whole law and the prophets depend on two commandments. The Bible is filled with books of the writings of the prophets and hundreds of laws. How can all this be dependent on two commandments? I guess we should look at those two commandments and see how inclusive they are.
“Love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind.” Jesus says that this is the greater of the two. Seems to make sense, doesn’t it? What better way to use your life than to give your love completely to the one who created us, sustains us and who gives us life eternal. And why hold back anything from the one who holds our life in the balance of love and gives us all that we need. But somehow, we think of reasons to not love God with our whole being.
God might get my attention, the focus of my mind, on Sunday at Mass, during my time of prayer each day and in times of trouble when I can’t figure a way out. But all my mind? Not even close. We clutter our minds with useless things like worry and anxiety. We fill our minds with schemes of hatred and retaliation. We occupy our attention with endless screens of senseless blabber rather than attend to our loneliness, selfishness and greed. What percentage of your mind does God really have access to? What might you be willing to give over to Him?
God might have access to a part of my heart. We periodically allow ourselves to be taken up into the love of God so that God can fill our hearts with unconditional love. Those moments of prayer, those gifts of grace and those moments of unmistakable presence take hold of our hearts. But how quickly we give our hearts over to something or someone else. Usually when times get tough or when we get bored, we hand our hearts over to something other than God. How often have you settled for “cheap grace” that excites but does not bear lasting fruit? How often do you choose to numb your heart from feeling so that you can have the fantasy of escape? What part of your heart would you like to give over to God and not take back?
Our souls belong to God. But we can try to give them away. God has promised us eternal life, but how often do we let our own transgressions call that truth into doubt? God has promised us that He has us in the palm of His hand, but how often do we doubt that He means us? Our soul belongs completely to God, and that is the truth.
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” What I would do for myself I will do for you, enemy or friend. What I would give to myself I would give to you, my enemy or friend.
The combination of these two commandments leave plenty of room for all the law and the prophets.
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.