, , ,


Last week, we continued on our Lenten Mission by looking at the first portion of the Great and First Commandment, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart…” (Mt 22:37a). This week, we will look at the second portion:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your…soul…” Matthew 22:37b

What does it mean to love God with all your soul? First, we must look at what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about the human soul…

Endowed with “a spiritual and immortal” soul (Gaudium et Spes, §14:2), the human person is “the only creature on earth that God has willed for its own sake” (GS, §24:3). From his conception, he is destined for eternal beatitude.[1]

God created each and every human person out of love and for intimate friendship with Himself. He endowed each person with an immortal soul and His desire is for each of us to spend all eternity with Him in heaven. What should our response be to such an unmerited gift?

The Catechism goes on to say…

The human person participates in the light and power of the divine Spirit. By his reason, he is capable of understanding the order of things established by the Creator. By free will, he is capable of directing himself toward his true good. He finds his perfection “in seeking and loving what is true and good” (GS §15:2).[2]

The human person is called to share in God’s divine life and He has given us reason so we can discern what is true and good. He has also given us free will so that we have within ourselves the means to choose the good in all situations. This is the cardinal virtue of prudence on which all the other virtues hinge (see this blog post to learn more on the cardinal virtues).

The Catechism explains that

By his reason, man recognizes the voice of God which urges him “to do what is good and avoid what is evil” (GS, §16). Everyone is obliged to follow this law, which makes itself heard in conscience and is fulfilled in the love of God and of neighbor. Living a moral life bears witness to the dignity of the person. (emphasis added)

“Man, enticed by the Evil One, abused his freedom at the very beginning of history” (GS, §13:1). He succumbed to temptation and did what was evil. He still desires the good, but his nature bears the wound of original sin. He is now inclined to evil and subject to error:

By his Passion, Christ delivered us from Satan and from sin. He merited for us the new life in the Holy Spirit. His grace restores what sin had damaged in us.

He who believes in Christ becomes a son of God. This filial adoption transforms him by giving him the ability to follow the example of Christ. It makes him capable of acting rightly and doing good. In union with his Savior, the disciple attains the perfection of charity which is holiness. Having matured in grace, the moral life blossoms into eternal life in the glory of heaven.[3]

After the fall, humans lost intimate union with God. Jesus Christ, God incarnate, came to restore that union. Through His sacrifice and baptism, we become adopted sons and daughters of the King of all creation. It is an unmerited gift and our response is to love Him back with our very being.

The great Pope St. John Paul II called this the “Law of the Gift.” His biographer, George Weigel, explained this theology of the gift of self…

From those Carmelite mystics, he learned that the central truth of human history is found at the Cross of Christ: human beings come to fulfillment (or, if you will, beatitude), not through the assertion of self but through the gift of self in obedience to God’s will. In his mature philosophical work at the Catholic University of Lublin, Wojtyła would refine this conviction intellectually and would put the “Law of the Gift,” or the law-of-self-giving, at the very foundation of his ethics — as each of our lives is a gift to us, so we must make our lives into gifts for others.[4] (emphasis added)

The measure of loving God with all our soul is the extent that we make our lives into a gift for others – our spouse, our children, and everyone we meet. This is the meaning of love: to give oneself for the good of another. That is how God loves us and how we are called to love. In doing so, we find happiness and our ultimate destination of spending all eternity with God in heaven.

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §1703; internet: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s1c1a1.htm (accessed March 5, 2021).

[2] Ibid., §1704.

[3] Ibid., §1706-1709.

[4] George Weigel, The Soul of Pope St. John Paul II, Catholic Education Resource Center, internet: https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/faith-and-character/faith-and-character/the-soul-of-pope-st-john-paul-ii.html (accessed March 6, 2021).