by José Antonio Pagola (English translation by Rebel Girl)
On one occasion, the Pharisees were gathered in a group and asked Jesus a question that was a matter of discussion and debate among those most concerned about complying strictly with the six hundred and thirteen most important precepts about the Sabbath, ritual purity, tithes, and other matters: "Teacher, which is the main commandment in the Law?"
Jesus' answer is well-known among Christians: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your being." This is the most important one. Then He added: "The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself." And He concluded with this statement: "The whole Law and the prophets depend on these two commandments."
It's important for us to listen carefully to the words of Jesus because, in the Church as well as in ancient Israel, the number of precepts, rules and prohibitions regulating various aspects of Christian life has grown over the centuries. Which is the first and most important one? What is essential for living as followers of Jesus?
Jesus makes it clear that everything is not equally important. It's a mistake to attach too much importance to secondary liturgical or disciplinary matters while neglecting what is essential. We must never forget that only the sincere love of God and neighbor is the first and principal criterion in our following of Jesus.
According to Him, that love is the fundamental attitude, the key irreplaceable force that gives truth and meaning to our religious relationship with God and our behavior towards people. What is Christian faith without love? What is left of our life in the Church and society without love?
Love frees our heart from the risk of being impoverished, diminished or paralyzed by insane attention to all sorts of norms and rituals. What is the life of a practitioner without a living love for God? How true is our Christian life without practical love for our needy neighbor?
Love is the opposite of two very widespread attitudes. First, indifference, understood as insensitivity, mental rigidity, heartlessness. Second, selfishness and lack of concern for others.
In these critical times, nothing is more important than humbly taking care of the essential: a sincere love of God nurtured through heartfelt celebrations experienced from within, and love of neighbor, strengthening friendliness among believers and promoting commitment to the needy. We trust in Jesus' words of encouragement.