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Memorial of Saint Charles Lwanga and Companions, Martyrs
One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, 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: Dear Lord Jesus, I thank you for the grace to be able to come before you in prayer. I realize that prayer is your gift to me. Please open my heart, soul, and mind to hear your message and to respond generously. Cultivate in me an ever-growing desire to know, love, and serve you, and in so doing be your instrument for the salvation of others.
- The First of All Commandments?: A scribe came to Jesus asking, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” His question was similar to the rich young man’s: “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16). St. John Paul II in the Encyclical “The Splendor of Truth” wrote, “For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life.” Both the rich young man and this scribe wanted to know what is most important in life. “What gives my life purpose?” “How should I lead my life?” No one can truly avoid these fundamental questions. Even the most superficial approach to life, seeking only immediate gratification, is itself an implicit answer to this question. To ask this question seriously and sincerely is an important step toward maturity and toward finding God.
- Love God with All Your Heart: Jesus responded to the scribe by quoting the Shema Israel from Deuteronomy 6:4-5, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart, and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.” The scribe would have known the passage well. Therefore, Jesus seemed to be affirming what the scribe would have already guessed, as indicated in the account of this encounter in the Gospel according to Luke, in which Jesus had the scribe answer his own question (Luke 10:27). It is as if a coach were reminding an experienced player to “stick to basics.” The heart of both the Old and the New Testaments is God’s love for man and man’s need to love God. The principle point of the New Testament is that God became man so that man could love God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Jesus did not come to replace the Old Testament but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17).
- Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: Jesus did add another law to that of love of God: love of neighbor. However, the second law is a consequence of the first. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states that the “first commandment enjoins us to love God above everything and all creatures for him and because of him” (2093). Charity is not mere philanthropy. We love our neighbor because we want to love God. St. John the Evangelist puts it even more succinctly, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another… if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us” (1 John 4:11-12).
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus Christ, may your grace ever increase in me the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Help my contemplation of your love for me deepen my love for you. Help me to see that my love for you and my neighbor are intimately connected, and may my love have the concrete and practical expression of loving my neighbor in my daily encounters. Let my smile, my words, and my actions be a sign of your love to my neighbors. May I also accept the love that you show me through them.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will seek out at least one person to show some act of kindness.
For Further Reflection: Read “Catholic Charity.”
Written by Fr. John Bullock, LC.