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Happy Easter to all

The real commandment

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José Antonio Pagola

A scribe approaches Jesus. He does not come to entrap him. Or to argue with him.  His life is founded on laws and norms that spell out how he must behave at every moment.  A question, however, has awakened in his heart:  “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  What is the most important thing to have success in life?

Jesus understands well how the man feels.  When, in religion, we keep accumulating norms and precepts, customs and rites, it is easy to live diffusedly, not knowing exactly what is the fundamental thing that will guide life in a healthy manner.  Something like this was happening in certain sectors of Judaism.

Jesus does not quote the commandments of Moses.  He simply reminds him of the prayer that the two of them, following the Jewish custom, have recited that very morning at sunrise:  “Hear, O Israel!  The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!  Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart.”

The scribe is thinking of a God who has the power to command.   Jesus places him before a God whose voice we have to listen to.  What is important is not to know precepts and fulfill them.  What is decisive is to stop and listen to this God who speaks to us without uttering human words.

When we listen to the true God, an attraction toward love is awakened in us.  It is not properly an order.  It is what springs up in us upon opening ourselves to the ultimate Mystery:  “You shall love.”  In this experience, there are no religious intermediaries, no theologians nor moralists.  We do not need anyone to tell it to us from the outside.   We know that to love is what matters.

This love for God is neither a sentiment nor an emotion.  To love him who is the source and origin of life is to live loving life, creation, things and, above all, persons.  Jesus speaks of loving “with all your heart, with all your soul, with your whole being.”  Without either mediocrity or self-serving calculations.  Generously and trustingly.

Jesus adds something still that the scribe has not asked.  This love of God is inseparable from love of neighbor.  One can love God only by loving his neighbor.  Otherwise, love of God is a lie.  How can we love the Father and not love his sons and daughters?

We Christians do not always take care of this synthesis of Jesus.  Frequently, we tend to mistake love of God for religious practices and fervor, ignoring the practical and sympathetic love of those excluded by society and forgotten by religion.  But what truth is there in our love if we live with our backs turned on those who suffer?