“Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” - Mark 12:28-31
Mountains of pages about theology have been written. Countless liturgies have been created. There are too many denominations to count, each with their own books of worship, customaries, and catechisms. Hundreds of generations of people have explored the complex subtleties of the Christian faith through prayer, study and acts of loving service. There is more about God than we can ever understand or even grasp. It is an onion with infinite layers.
And yet. We have one greatest commandment: Love God before everything else, with everything you have. And love your neighbor as yourself.
That’s it. There is no other commandment greater than this.
There are many good ways to be, many good things to do. All God’s commandments are all helpful. But in the end, God commands that love be the motivation, the inspiration and the expression of our every action, thought and impulse.
Selfless love - or agape love, in church language - supports the wellbeing of others and increases caring, trusting connections between people. Paul said it so well in his letter to the Corinthians:
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
This is grown-up love. It is not easy. It is sometimes expressed in drawing compassionate boundaries, sometimes in breaking through unjust ones. But as faithful followers of Jesus, we are called to discern how to love God, neighbor and self in everything we do. That is the bottom line.
Our readings for this Sunday are HERE. Note that in ordinary time we are using the readings from Track 2