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This Lent we invited you to go on mission, to take a spiritual checkup of the depth of your love for God. We have been using this key passage from Scripture to guide our reflection:

And one of [the Pharisees], a lawyer, asked [Jesus] a question, to test him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And [Jesus] said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:35-40 (emphasis added)

During the first five weeks of Lent, we examined the first and great commandment along with a second that Jesus says “is like it” (1st week, 2nd week, 3rd week, 4th week, 5th week). Today, we look at the last verse of this passage: “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:40).

In giving these two commandments, Jesus is simplifying the Decalogue (10 “Words” or Commandments) given to Moses and the Israelites during their exodus from captivity in Egypt. God’s finger in flaming fire wrote these commandments on two stone tablets. Read what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about this event in salvation history…

The Ten Commandments state what is required in the love of God and love of neighbor. The first three concern love of God, and the other seven love of neighbor.

As charity comprises the two commandments to which the Lord related the whole Law and the prophets … so the Ten Commandments were themselves given on two tablets. Three were written on one tablet and seven on the other.[1]

The Catechism further says, that the Ten Commandments were engraved by God in the human heart from the beginning. According to St. Irenaeus, God “implanted in the heart of man the precepts of the natural law. Then he was content to remind him of them. This was the Decalogue.”[2]

Jesus summarizes the two tablets into two commandments: Love of God (Tablet 1) and Love of Neighbor (Tablet 2). In doing this, He is not telling us how to act but how to think! When we contemplate a given action, we need to ask ourselves “Is this action going to move me closer to God and neighbor or further away?” In other words, Jesus is forming our conscience to make right choices in all circumstances. These two commandments replace the 613 commandments given in the Torah (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy), hence “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:40).

Family is the proving ground of our grasp of these two commandments. Are we treating our spouse and children with love at all times and in all circumstances? Our love of God is measured by how we love those closest to us in our homes. Do we see the fruits of the Holy Spirit working in our minds and hearts?

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Gal 5:22-23).

The Catechism describes the family as the domestic church, “a community of grace and prayer, a school of human virtues and of Christian charity[3] (emphasis added).

In his apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, St. John Paul II says that this “‘school of deeper humanity’ happens where there is care and love for the little ones, the sick, the aged; where there is mutual service every day; when there is a sharing of goods, of joys and of sorrows”[4] (emphasis added).

He also says that the parents’ love is the animating principle of this school. This love guides all educational activity, and enriches it with the “values of kindness, constancy, goodness, service, disinterestedness and self-sacrifice that are the most precious fruit of love[5] (emphasis added).

Further he explains that:

In a society shaken and split by tensions and conflicts caused by the violent clash of various kinds of individualism and selfishness, children must be enriched not only with a sense of true justice, which alone leads to respect for the personal dignity of each individual, but also and more powerfully by a sense of true love, understood as sincere solicitude and disinterested service with regard to others, especially the poorest and those in most need.[6]

St. Paul in his letter to the Romans sums up the commandment to love…

Love one another with mutual affection; outdoing one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10

The more we love God, the more we are able to love our spouse, our children, and our neighbor…

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, and patience, forbearing one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14

Can you see why Jesus says that “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (Matthew 22:40)? Jesus has distilled all the laws and the commandments of the Old Testament into the simple love of God and love of neighbor.

In humility, pray this simple prayer: “Lord, I seek to serve my spouse, children, and neighbors. Give me a heart that always puts their needs before my own.” This is the definition of love. Jesus demonstrated this self-giving love by dying on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

It is only in humble service of one another that relationships flourish. Find little ways that you can be a blessing to your spouse, children, and neighbors through meeting some of their daily needs. Humbly serve as you become more Christ-like in your thoughts and actions. It will renew your family and the world!

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you. Jude 2

[1] Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2067; internet: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2.htm (accessed March 24, 2021).

[2] Ibid., §2072.

[3] Ibid., §1666.

[4] John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris Consortio, §21, November 22, 1982; http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/apost_exhortations/documents/hf_jp-ii_exh_19811122_familiaris-consortio_en.html (accessed March 24, 2021).

[5] Ibid., §36.

[6] Ibid., §37.