When the Pharisees heard how Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. One of them, a lawyer, questioned him to test him, “Teacher, which commandment of the law is the greatest?”
Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the ﬁrst and the most important of the commandments. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole Law and the Prophets are founded on these two commandments.”
Today’s gospel reading presents the opponents of Jesus questioning him on a hierarchy of commandments. Jesus invites them to look towards God and people. Not a tape recording, but a live broadcast. The problem is no longer to acquire a clear conscience; the problem is to love.
And so, what about the essential? The essential always has a face. That of a husband or a wife, those of children and parents, those of neighbors and co-workers, those more distant of people with whom we must struggle for a more humane society. The essential is also, at the same time, the face of all faces, that of Him whom Jesus has called Father so that all of us may know that we are all sons and daughters, brothers and sisters.
How does one concretely love one’s neighbor? It is not so much a matter of feelings (some natural antipathies are almost insurmountable) as a matter of attitudes and actions. St. Paul describes in the following terms what is true charity: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things” (1 Cor 13:7). When we seek to excuse the neighbors’ faults, when we always hope that they will improve (whatever appearances), when we accept them as they are—then we really love, then we are true sons and daughters of God.
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