Several years ago, I served as Catholic Chaplain to Towson University. When I started there, other campus ministers and students told me I “had” to get on to Facebook, because that was where the students were. They were right. Once I signed up, I got “friend requests” from many students – and even many old friends from my past who were also on the site.
Facebook is a great way to stay in touch with friends whom you don’t regularly see and, like the Internet, a great way to share ideas and information. However, there is a down side, and we can see it around times like this – Election Season. Sometimes, I open my Facebook page and look at my “newsfeed” and there are all sorts of angry opinions for or against this or that candidate or issue. I got to vote the other day, and I wish that with that, all angry input in my life could have stopped, but that is just not the way of things.
Today, we hear in both the First Reading and the Gospel, the Lord’s commandment of love:
"Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with all your heart,
and with all your soul,
and with all your strength.
Imagine, if you will, going to the polling place on Tuesday and seeing this “question” on the ballot: “You are required to love God with everything that you are.” Would you vote “for” that law? I imagine that, if you are here in church, you would. But it does beg the question: Can you command love? Can love be legislated?
That is exactly what God is doing through Moses today. We here the “Shema” – the heart of the Jewish law that any good Jew could rattle off as easily as we say the “Our Father.” “HEAR (Shema), O Israel!”
When Jesus is asked about which of the 630-some-odd laws was the “first” – the most important – He, like any good Jew, began, "Shema, Yishrael…” affirming love of God with our whole being. He also joined another so quickly that it must always be considered together with love of God: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
How about that ballot question? “You are required to love your neighbors as yourself.” For? Against? That one becomes a little harder; however, it is part of Jesus’ twofold Law of Love.
First, love God; also, love others.
Can we make others love us? Anyone who has ever tried can tell you that you can’t. Many teenagers learn that painful lesson in their relationships. However, God commands us to love Him – not because God is a petulant child or an insecure, lovelorn person. Rather, He commands love so that we can realize the fullness of who we are – and thereby “enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Love is the key.
It is love that allows us to be opponents without becoming enemies.
It is love that allows us to disagree without being disagreeable.
It is love that allows us to be kind even in the midst of conflict.
So that is the challenge that Jesus lays before us. How do we love God and others? Because love of God looks inauthentic when we cannot love our neighbor. My challenge this week is to look at the relationships in my life and ask if there are those whom I do not love properly – who might be obstacles to my living out this law of love. I extend that challenge to you.
Jesus’ entire life was an example of that love – so much so that He gave all of Himself for us, even forgiving those who crucified Him. We share in this Eucharist as recipients of that Love, and we are strengthened to live as He did, loving God and loving others.
Pray, that not only may we love God as we should, but that we may then be filled with that love and inspired to share it with others – no matter what.