I think that it is interesting that Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is and that He does not answer in the singular! Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment concerns loving God but then very quickly adds that the second greatest commandment is the love of our neighbor. To me this indicates that in the mind of Jesus these two commandments are very closely linked to one another.

 

If we read the first letter of St John one of his themes is that it is impossible to separate the love of God from the love of one’s neighbor. He tells us that to say that we have one and not the other is tantamount to lying, as the one is dependent upon the other. It is not possible to say that we love God and then to hate the brother or sister around us. Such a situation is a contradiction in terms. And, in my opinion, John is exactly right! What does this mean for our understanding of the greatest commandment of all?

 

I do not think that it means much at all other than to indicate that the love of God has ramifications or effects that reach beyond the relationship of God with each individual. I still believe that in a certain sense that the love of God is primary in that without it, it is impossible to love one’s neighbor. However, at the same time, unless the expression of our love for God reaches into the way that we relate with one another, it is a false sort of love and we are liars if we say that we love God or our neighbor. It is for this reason that the expression of our faith in God is evidenced primarily in the way that we relate to one another and not by the length of time that we pray or the pious words that come from our mouths. Our faith must find concrete expression in the things that we do or it is not true faith at all!

 

This is why our faith must have a social conscience and care for the state of the world and the welfare of our fellow human beings both now and into the future. This understanding probably has its fullest expression in the Second Vatican Council document, Gaudium et Spes (The Apostolic Constitution of the Church in the Modern World). Here we find the Church calling for recognition of the need to be active in the projects that benefit humanity as a whole and calling all Christians to participate in such good works.

 

How am I physically active in the love and care of my fellow men and women? Am I active in works of social justice and the promotion of social concerns?

 

Father in Heaven, you have created us to live in love of you and one another. Help me by your grace to be more active in the good works that promote greater social harmony and justice both in the church and the world.