This love that is God and of God remains faithful to us always.
The whole essence of the Christian mission, its meaning, and its purpose for the individual way of life of the Christian and for the real good of society can be summed up in this command to love. This love is not a sentiment. It is an action. It is an action tied to a habitual attitude of piety toward God and one’s neighbor. It requires something much harder than sentiment. It requires us to do two difficult, important, and necessary things: to refrain from doing anything that would harm anyone, and to do whatever is necessary to promote and defend the well-being of others.
Creation itself was an act of love on the part of God. And when God created man he created him in his image and likeness. What does that mean? John tells us in his First Letter, chapter 4:8 that “God is love”. That is the image and likeness we are made in and yet we all too often rebel from this truth, turning away from ourselves and God. And the great mystery is that he still loves us. He proved his love for us, by entering into our humanity, suffering and dying on the cross, to forgive us and to offer us the chance to know him more intimately and to turn back to him in love. This is the greatest act of love ever known.
God promotes this central transcendent virtue of love by instructing us in its wisdom in many ways. For example, in Leviticus 19:17-18, he teaches us: “You shall not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. Though you may have to reprove your fellow man, do not incur sin because of him. Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” This is true wisdom. This is the true behavior of love. It does no harm and it promotes the well-being of our neighbor and fellow citizens. Is it not true that we yearn in the depths of our being to see this wisdom of love in our world? And we yearn for it precisely because we instinctively understand its wisdom, yet we do not see much of this wisdom of love in our behavior, much less in the world around us.
The New Testament is crammed full of the invitation and the productive actions of God’s love. It is before us on every page. We see God’s love in action on every page, and we see the rebellion from it and the consequences, both immediate and potential. It is very clear that love is the central challenge to everyone who desires to be a follower of Christ. Love is the reason for the Incarnation. The revelation of God’s love is in every miracle, and in every word from Jesus’ mouth. Love is the motivation behind every word of the Sermon on the Mount, and it is the power behind the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Love is the very core of Jesus’ willingness to die on the cross in order to save us from our foolish abandonment of love toward ourselves, our neighbors, and God.
When a scholar of the law attempted to test Jesus saying, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your souls, 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. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments (Mt. 22:34-40). This is the center, the stillpoint upon which our Christian faith spins. And here we must ask ourselves a very difficult question: What would the world be like if a critical mass of all of us who call ourselves Christians were really living our daily lives in accord with this wisdom of love? But here is the hope we live with too. This love that is God and of God remains faithful to us always and is always ready to forgive and is always willing to enter into our hearts, souls, and minds whenever we turn back to it. Thanks be to God whose love is eternal! Amen.SKM: below-content placeholder