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Love Is the New Law
Friday of the Third Week of Lent
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 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.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, He is One and there is no other than he. And to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Opening Prayer: My Jesus, I love you above all things and want to love others as you have loved me. Open my heart to hear your word and let it penetrate the good soil there, take root, and bear fruit that will last, which is love alone.
- The Law of Love: Earlier in the week, the Mass readings focused on Jesus as the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to do away with it (cf. Matthew 5:17). This Gospel teaching is the summation of the entirety of Mosaic law. Love is the new law. St. Paul teaches us, “Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10). Love is the law of Christ’s kingdom. St. John Paul II wrote, “Jesus sums up the whole law, focusing it on the commandment of love (cf. Matthew 22:34-40; Luke 10:25-28). Before leaving his disciples, he gave them a ‘new commandment’: ‘Love one another; even as I have loved you’ (John 13:34; cf. 15:12). Jesus’s love for the world finds its highest expression in the gift of his life for mankind (cf. John 15:13), which manifests the love which the Father has for the world (cf. John 3:16)” (Redemptoris Missio, 15).
- Loving God: Jesus tells us that the first thing we must do to fulfill the law is to love God with all that we have: our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Loving God is primarily about being receptive to his love and friendship through a life of grace through prayer and the sacraments. We love God with our hearts and souls when we place him first in our lives by faithfully attending Mass and keeping his commandments (1 John 5:3). We love him with our minds when we seek to be intellectually formed in Christ. Spiritual reading, attending formation events, and reading Gospel reflections like this one are all ways to deepen our knowledge and friendship with Christ. Finally, we love God with all our strength when we seek to be conformed to Jesus Christ’s perfect humanity, namely by imitating his virtues. St. Paul teaches us that God desires that we are remade in the image of Christ’s humanity: “For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:29).
- Loving Our Neighbors: The second thing we must do to fulfill the law is to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is important to realize that we cannot love others well without fulfilling the first part of the commandment, which is to love and be loved by God: “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). What does loving our neighbors look like in our everyday lives? St. Paul teaches us that love is patient and kind. It is not jealous, pompous, inflated, rude, self-seeking, quick-tempered, or resentful. It seeks the truth and bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. It never fails (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8). After reading that list, each of us could choose at least one thing to work on in order to love our neighbor better.
Conversing with Christ: Jesus, after reading the list of St. Paul’s picture of love, I know that I can still grow in many of these areas. I can be impatient, unkind, rude, self-centered, and ill-tempered at times. Increase the love and mercy in my heart and conform me to your image. May I die to myself and my preferences so that it is no longer I who lives, but you who lives in me (cf. Galatians 2:20).
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will choose one aspect of love to focus on, and seek to conform myself to you by imitating your virtues.
For Further Reflection: Read St. John’s first letter, which focuses on love, keeping of the commandments, and the Christian life. It is quite short, so it should only take about ten minutes to read: The First Letter of John.
Written by Carey Boyzuck.