What does it mean to love God with our whole heart? In the Gospel today Christ reminds us that this is the greatest commandment, followed only by the commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. How beautiful to have such a concise summary of our whole Christian life set before us! But what does it mean to love God with everything we have, and how does that work with our love of the people around us? Christ Himself shows us the answer.
Our Lord gives us a living example of this love for God in every page of the Gospels. In fact, in His human nature, Christ lives out all of the commandments perfectly so that we can see what they really mean, so if we wish to understand, we only have to look at what the Lord Himself does. Above all, we see the love of God, in this case the love of the Son for the Father, lived out in Christ. In the Gospels, the Father is constantly on the mind of the Son. Christ comes close to the Father in the Jerusalem Temple as a youth, even when it means three days of fear and searching for Mary and Joseph. During His public ministry, the Lord is always looking for a moment alone, away from the crowds, so that He can speak freely with the Father. He tells His disciples that He does exactly what the Father does, and that He is doing all these works precisely so that the world will know that He loves the Father.
When He opens His heart to us most fully, at the Last Supper and during His Passion, He speaks effusively to the Father, making clear that even His love for us is for the Father’s sake, and in order to share His love for the Father with us. Everything in Christ, at every moment of His life, is about the Father. So with this image in front of our eyes, what should we do? We should ask ourselves what our own priorities and beliefs really are. Christ knows, with perfect divine knowledge that He comes from the Father’s love, is constantly embraced by the Father’s love, and returns to the Father’s love. It is in this knowledge that He loves the Father in return. We can ask ourselves “what would my life look like if I truly and perfectly believed in the Father’s love and care for me? What would my life look like if my first and highest priority was loving Him back?” If we compare the differences between that possible life and our current life, what we ought to do comes into focus.
Following that first and greatest commandment more completely can take many different forms. Maybe we need to let go of fear, of anger, or of some form of despair in our lives, trusting that the Father loves us and will never abandon us. Perhaps we still need to make a totally thorough and honest confession, understanding that the Father knows we need a Savior, and is happy to forgive anything through Jesus Christ and His Church. Maybe we need to begin taking prayer seriously, taking time every day to be alone with God, even before we know how to. It’s possible that we need to stop trying to be friends with the secular world first, at some cost to our conscience, or we need to back away from a life full of unending activities and events, or we need to take coming to Sunday Mass more seriously than anything in life. Whatever the next step might be, let’s each of us resolve to find one, and with the help of the God who loved us into existence, take it.