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Matthew 22:34-40 The Greatest Commandment

There is a bible scholar who said, “The message of the Scripture from the first page to the very last is love”. Indeed love is the main message of Christianity, others are just commentaries. Apart from it no sacrifice, no offering, no worship, no conduct are holy, pleasing and acceptable to the Lord. Hence, the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. It is the foundation, center and the summit of Christian life.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself”  (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. “The commandment of love encompass all of the commandments of the Decalogue and fulfill them. All are contained in them, all follows from them, all strive toward them” (OR, June 1991). “Love is the greatest and the first of all the commandments and in it all the others are included and made one” (JP II Address to Youth). It is a resume and condensation of the fullness of the Law (Rm. 13:8, 10) that suffices. So it is that charity expresses all, contains all, crowns all.

Alan Watts writes, “One may master all the rules of conduct but fail to be a Christian for lack of love. Mere obedience to a law will never of itself produce love, because love is the very life of God and there is no system or set of rules whereby one can become its possessor” (Behold the Spirit). Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification” (LG 42).

I therefore, exhort you “love one another in deed and in truth and not merely talk about it” (see 1 Jn 3:18).  because when man is loved, St. Thomas says, God is loved, for man is the image of God (cf. “Commentary on St. Matthew”, 22:4) and an object of His love (cf. St. Vincent de Paul). Let us, therefore, renew our commitment to love God and one another not only with our words, not only with our promises, not only with our good intention but in truth and in deeds.

Do you want to go to hell? If you want to go to hell, just refuse to love, just neglect to love, just take love for granted and you will go to hell the easiest, the fastest and the surest way. Please don’t go the hell.

 

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Mk 12:28-34: The Greatest Commandment

Stephen E. Robinson once said, “The heart and soul of the gospel is love, and all the rest is commentary. Whatever else we may perceive religion to be, we are wrong—for true religion is love in action—God’s love for us and our love for God and for our neighbors.” (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News, 125.)

This is the same message Jesus wishes to tell us in the Gospel reading for the day: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself”  (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. The two-fold commandment of love is the resume, condensation and fulfillment of all the laws of Moses and all the teachings of the prophets. In it all the other commandments are included and made one. Indeed, charity expresses all, contains all, and crowns all.

St Jerome hands down a tradition concerning the last years of St John’s life: when he was already a very old man, he used always say the same thing to the faithful: “My children, love one another!” On one occasion, he was asked why he insisted on this: “to which he replied with these words worthy of John: ‘Because it is the Lord’s commandment, and if you keep just this commandment, it will suffice”‘ (“Comm. in Gal.”, III, 6, 10).

What are some of the implications of the two-fold commandment of love in our Christian faith and life?

First, it teaches us that the best distinguishing mark of what a Christian should be is charity. Every Christian must be convinced that God has first loved him or her and in return should also love God and His people. “The man without love has known nothing of God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:12).

Charity, therefore, is the sure mark of Christian, the way to recognize the genuine disciple of Jesus. “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (CCC 1822).

Second, it teaches us that “Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification” (LG 42)” and the perfection of Christian life consists fundamentally in charity and that the soul of holiness is charity. Why? Because love, as the bond of perfection and fullness of the law (cf. Col 3:14, Rom. 13:10), governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of sanctification. As St. Paul said: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love you neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rm 13:8-10).

Apart from love no sacrifice, no offering, no worship, no conduct are holy, pleasing and acceptable to the Lord  because the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. It is the foundation, center and the summit of Christian life.

Third, it teaches us that charity is the sure route to salvation.  “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (St. John of the Cross, Dichos 64). We will be judged on the degree and quality of our love (cf. St. John of the Cross, “Spiritual Sentences and Maxims”, 57).

In the end, what really matters or decisive is how do we answer to the question of Christ: “What did you do to the least brethren of mine? Blessed are you when you “fed the hungry Christ, gave drink to the thirsty Christ, received the homeless Christ, clothed the naked Christ and visited the sick and the imprisoned Christ” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) for Jesus will say:  “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brethren of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

In sum, “Charity is the greatest of all gifts, a sure route to holiness and salvation, and the identifying mark of the Christian: “the first and most necessary gift is charity, by which we love God above all things and our neighbor because of him. […] This is because love, as the bond of perfection and fullness of the law (cf. Col 3:14, Rom. 13:10), governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of sanctification. Hence the true disciple of Christ is marked by love both of God and of his neighbor” (Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium”, 42).

The man without love is like “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1) and has known nothing of God for God is love (see cf. 1 Jn 4:7f). The one who has no love for his brother or sister he has seen cannot love God he has not seen. He is a liar because whoever loves God must also love his brother” (see 1 Jn 4:19-21). As Christ has loved us let us, therefore, love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God.

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Mt 5:17-19: Teaching About The Law

“Do no deny, seldom affirm and always distinguish” is a normative attitude any would-be-philosopher or rational human being should have. In today’s Gospel, we see its relevance in understanding the life and teaching of Jesus about the law.

Knowing Jesus as someone who broke what the Jews called Law, it is astonishing and puzzling to hear Jesus warning his disciples: “Whoever will break one of the least of these commandments, and will teach others to do so, shall be called least in the Kingdom of heaven; but whoever will do them and will teach others to do them, he will be called great in the Kingdom of the Heavens” (v. 19) Several passages of the Gospel attests to the very fact and truth that sometimes Jesus did not observe the handwashings that the Law laid down; he healed sick people on the Sabbath, although forbade such healing; he was in fact condemned and crucified as a law-breaker; and yet he seems to speak of the Law with a veneration and a reverence that no Rabbi or Pharisee could exceed.

At first, Jesus appears to be inconsistent and tempts us to judge him by saying: “Look who’s talking? Here we need to distinguish the kind of Law Jesus is referring to? The kind of law we need to follow with reverence and veneration and which is not.

The Jews used the expression The Law in four different ways. (i) They used it to mean the Ten Commandments. (ii) They used it to mean the first five books of the Bible. The part of the Bible which is known as the Pentateuch-which literally means The Five Rolls-was to the Jew the Law par excellence and was to them by far the most important part of the Bible. (iii)They used the phrase The Law and the prophets to mean the whole of Scriptures; they used it as a comprehensive description of what we would call the whole Old Testament. (iv) They used it to mean the Oral or the Scribal Law.

In the time of Jesus it was the last meaning which was the commonest; and it was in fact this Scribal law which both Jesus and Paul so utterly condemned. What, then, was this Scribal law? It refers to a compilation of rules and regulations possibly deducted and expanded out of the great principles of Law. It was believed that the Moses received 613 precepts on Mount Sinai and these were expanded by the Scribes into thousands of rules and regulations.

The Scribes were the men who worked out these rules and regulations. The Pharisees, whose name means The Separated Ones, were the men who had separated themselves from all the ordinary activities of life to keep all these rules and regulation.

For many generations this Scribal Law was never written down; it was the oral law, and it was handed down in the memory of generations of Scribes. In the middle of the third century A.D. a summary of it was made and codified. That summary is known as the Misnah; It contains sixty-three tractates on various subjects of the Law, and in English makes a book of almost eight hundred pages. Later Jewish scholarship busied itself with making commentaries to explain the Misnah. These commentaries are known as the Talmuds. Of the Jerusalem Talmud there are twelve printed volumes; and of the Babylonian Talmud there are sixty printed volumes.

Righteousness, according to the pious Jews, in the time of Jesus, is keeping religiously thousands of legalistic rules and regulations. For them, it is a matter of holiness, it is a matter of salvation. Clearly Jesus did not mean that not one of these rules and regulation was to pass away; repeatedly he broke them himself; repeatedly he condemned them; that is certainly not what Jesus meant by Law, for that is the kind of law that both Jesus and Paul condemned.

“The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. Its moral prescription are summed up in the Ten Commandments. The precepts of the Decalogue lay the foundations for the vocation of man fashioned in the image of God; they prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor, and prescribe what is essential to it. The Decalogue is a light offered to the conscience of every man to make God’s call and ways known to him, and protect him against evil: ‘God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts’” (CCC 1962; St Augustine, En. In Ps. 57, 1: PL 36, 673).

The Law is the first stage on the way to the Kingdom. It prepares and disposes the chosen people and each Christian for conversion and faith in the Savior God. It provides teaching which endures forever, like the Word of God. The Old Law is a preparation of  the Gospel. It is completed by the teaching of the sapiental books and the prophets which set its course towards the New Covenant and the kingdom of heaven (see CCC 1963-64).

The Law is “holy, spiritual and good (cf. Rom 7:12, 14, 16),” yet still imperfect. Like a “tutor (cf. Gal 3:24)” it shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to fulfill it.

The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: “I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel….I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people (Heb 8:8,10; cf. 31:31-34; CCC 1965).

The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Gospel, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for the persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity. And the entire law of the gospel is contained in the “new commandment” of Jesus, to love one another as he has loved us (cf Mt 5:44-48; see CCC 1968-69, cf. Jn 15:12; 13:34).

To fulfill the law to its perfection is to love. Hence, the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. Do we not also find in the First Commandment: Thou shall love, thy God, with all thy whole mind, with all thy heart, with all thy soul and with all thy strength,” a resume and condensation of the fullness of the Law (Rom 13:8, 10). That suffices. So it is that charity expresses all, contains all and crowns all. Charity as the bond of perfection and the fulfillment of the Law (Col 3:14; Rom 13:10) rules over all the means of attaining holiness, gives life to them, and makes them work. Hence, it is the love of God and of neighbor which points out the true disciple of Christ.

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