[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.”] (Mk. 12:28-31)
Jesus inseparably joins two loves—love of God and love of neighbor—, making them one and the same love. St. John echoes Jesus’s teaching in his first letter,
If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God* whom he has not seen. (1 Jn. 4:20)
St. Thomas Aquinas too notes the essence of charity is both love of God as well as love of our neighbor. He says that real Christian love is expressed in and through God. In other words, if we love God we also love His friends. So…authentic love for our neighbor isn’t something we do on our own, but something we do with God. This of course means we can ask God for help to love someone we’re struggling to. In no way are we “off the hook”, but we are not alone in loving others.
Jesus, St. John, and St Thomas Aquinas provide us with an infallible test of our love. Do I love God? “Of course,” I’ll say. But, do I really? OR Is my love for God merely cheap lip service?
Take some time today to reflect on your own love. AND ask God for the grace to help you love those you find it difficult to.