SFX Bulletin, 26 October 2014: Many people view laws in general as limitations to freedom but for the Christian, laws from God give joy. In fact, Christians can even speak of God’s “laws” in the singular – there is only the Law of Love. This Law, in turn, has been fulfilled most perfectly by Jesus and when we receive him in the Eucharist, we receive his power and strength to live in God’s Love. The more we contemplate the Eucharist or Jesus in us and desire to be conformed to him, the deeper our personal encounter with him and the more clearly others will be able to see divine power at work through us.
Jesus is truly the “easy yoke” and “light burden” that “sets us free” (cf. Mt. 11:30; Jn. 8:32). More often than not, however, we get bogged down by the letter rather than make effort to understand the spirit of the law. We end up slavishly obeying and becoming increasingly pedantic. Today’s gospel illustrates this point. The Pharisee, like all devout Jews, regarded the Torah (first five books) as containing 613 commandments - all of which had to be observed with equal care. As such, when the Pharisee asked Jesus, “Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” he was hoping Jesus would give an answer emphasising just one law – creating an opportunity for them to accuse Jesus of neglecting the Law in its totality by ranking one particular commandment above the others.
Jesus’ answer zoomed in to the heart of the laws – loving God - which is best expressed through love for others, “You must 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 resembles it: you must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets, also” (v.37-40).
The love of God involves the total person (“heart”, “soul”, “mind”). The Pharisees, like many of us today, had “head-knowledge” of God’s love, “a blind impulse of the mind” (CCC156). What is asked of us is not blind faith but “a lively understanding of Revelation…of the totality of God’s plan and the mysteries of faith, of their connection with each other and with Christ, the centre of the revealed mystery” (CCC158).
This “lively understanding” in turn, gives rise to an emanation of God’s love – for oneself and others, “Love of neighbour springs from a loving heart which, precisely because it loves, is ready to live out the loftiest challenges….Jesus himself is the living ‘fulfilment’ of the Law…he fulfils its authentic meaning by the total gift of himself: he himself becomes a living and personal Law, who invites people to follow him; through the Spirit, he gives the grace to share his own life and love and provides the strength to bear witness to that love in personal choices and actions” (Pope St. John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor, The Splendour of Truth, no.15 – italics are from the encyclical).
In today’s second reading, St. Paul praised the Christian converts in the Thessalonian church not only for their upright lives but mainly for their powerful witnessing by living with an understanding of God’s saving plan for all men, “…other people tell us how we started the work among you, how you broke with idolatry when you were converted to God and became servants of the real, living God; and how you are now waiting for Jesus, his Son, whom he raised from the dead, to come from heaven to save us from the retribution which is coming” (v.9-10).
God’s laws are “… a path involving a moral and spiritual journey towards perfection, at the heart of which is love” (VS15). May we allow Jesus, the “living and personal Law” we receive in the Eucharist, to nurture in us his self-giving love so that others, too, may come to desire and have the love and life we have received from him (cf. Jn. 15:13).