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Memorial of Saint Bernard, Abbot and Doctor of the Church
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, I invite you into my heart today. Teach me the way to love. Teach me to love serving you and following your law. Help me to move from a spirituality that is focused only on commandments to one which is focused on loving you. Help me to move away from doing the least required of me, to wanting to give above and beyond the minimum, because I love you.
- Which Is the Greatest?: Jesus struggled to overcome this kind of question in his teaching and throughout his life. This question stems from the pharisaical perspective, which focuses on laws and commandments as the only guideposts for life. The Pharisees enforced a strict norm for how everything should be done, and wanted to live their lives neatly within that norm. They were centered on knowing and following the laws of God. For them, greatness was defined by following the commandments. Their false perfectionism blinded them to Jesus and they could not understand his law of love. In what ways are we limited by our narrow perspectives and unable to receive what Jesus is trying to teach us?
- Love the Lord: Jesus took this important question at face value and answered it directly. In fact, he elevated the conversation above the limitations of his questioners. He broke their schemes. The Pharisees were looking for strict rules for life and Jesus invited them to magnanimity. They wanted to stay within their legalistic comfort zone but Jesus asked them to reach beyond it, to love. “Love with all of your heart, all your soul, all your mind”—he invited them to total self-giving to God. He left no opening to “do the minimum.” Love for God seeks to go beyond what others expect of us.
- Love Your Neighbor as Yourself: We cannot love God if we ignore our neighbor. These two loves are often described as the two beams of the cross, one horizontal (love of neighbor), one vertical (love of God). When we love God with all of our heart, this love can’t help but overflow to those around us. It can’t be contained in the human heart. It ripples out to extend the kingdom of God to others.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, help me as I look at my own life to examine where I stand in my love for you and my love for my neighbor. Where have I been holding back, trying to do the bare minimum? Give me the strength to break free and begin loving you with magnanimity.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray for an extra ten minutes today as my gift to you.
For Further Reflection: Watch “Better Than a Hallelujah,” by Amy Grant
Father Adam Zettel, LC, was ordained in 2017 and since then has been working as a high school chaplain in Dallas, Texas. During his years of formation and as a priest, he has worked extensively with youth and offers constant pastoral care to families.
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