30th Sunday Ordinary Time—The twofold Commandment

“Love begins here” so proclaimed an advertisement for a bridal convention I saw on a billboard recently. Is it really true that love begins when we buy things? If that is the case we are in trouble! I imagine things at a bridal convention are a little more expensive than a gum ball.

So what is Love and where does it really begin? St Thomas Aquinas notes very simply: “to Love is To will the good of the other”. Our Lord shows us the ultimate expression of love from the cross when he goes against his own natural desires, and totally accepts the will of the Father. He then goes through excruciating torture and humiliation to bear our sins in his own body and soul and to open the gates of heaven.The Catechism describes love, or charity as “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”

This virtue is something very powerful. We say something has reached perfection when it is made a certain way and it achieves the end for which it is made. For example, a sports car that is used to haul a heavy trailer is not really achieving the end for which it was made. Our Lord has given us a very simple command: love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself. Yet we often hear the word “love” used in the wrong ways and abused in our culture. We hear we need to love others–to embrace sinful life choices. We need to allow others to make really bad decisions and not try to lead them along the pathways of virtue. We are told to love equates whatever feels good. Yet this is not what our Lord is talking about. What He is talking about He lives to the fullest–we see it on the cross. That is true love.

The law of divine love accomplishes four things in us, according to St Thomas Aquinas: 1. It is the cause of our spiritual life. 2. It leads to the observance of divine commandments. 3. It provides protection against adversity. 4. It truly leads to happiness, since eternal blessedness is only promised to those who have charity.

It is the nature of love to transform the lover into the object loved. If you or I love a certain activity, our whole day will be centered around that activity, and we will eventually morph our lives around that activity. If you or I truly love God, our lives will be centred around Him. St Augustine notes that “As the soul is the life of the body, so God is the life of the soul”. The soul which acts out of love for God, acts in a way that is achieving the end for which it was made: love.

St Gregory the Great says that charity is not idle. Those who love will do great and difficult things for the one loved. A husband will go to great ends to help his wife who is suffering, even foregoing his own comfort and desires. Our Lord tells us “whoever loves me will keep my word”. In the same way, difficulties are not able to get us down–adversity is a new challenge to arise to the occasion, so to speak. We have witnessed how much our Lord has suffered for each of us, and we wish to atone for this, so adversities and suffering does not frighten the soul who loves.

Charity is the secret if we wish to be happy. Unless you or I are doing all our actions for perfect love of God and neighbor, we will not experience eternal happiness.

We have to remember the end of our lives: God has created each of us to love. If we are loving God, we will be given the energy and the strength to truly love our neighbor. Without loving God, we cannot truly love our neighbor. As Benedict XVI wrote, “If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other [person] anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God” (Deus Caritas Est, 18). We are called to give to others what they truly need: the look of the love of Jesus Christ, which we can only do if we are close to our Lord.

How can we do this? We must be close to our Lord in the Eucharist. To use the words of Benedict XVI again, “The Saints…constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service to others…No longer is it [love of God and neighbor] a question, then, of a ‘commandment’ imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must be shared with others” (ibid, 18). Love does not begin at a marriage convention: materialism is not love. Love begins in the heart of God who is very close to us in the Eucharist. If we wish to love God and neighbor, we must spend our lives oriented toward and flowing from our time spent with our Lord in the Eucharist. begins here” so proclaimed an advertisement for a bridal convention I saw on a billboard recently. Is it really true that love begins when we buy things, and I imagine things at a bridal convention are a little more expensive than a gum ball.

So what is Love and where does it really begin? St Thomas Aquinas notes very simply: “to Love is To will the good of the other”. Our Lord shows us the ultimate expression of love from the cross when he goes against his own natural desires, and totally accepts the will of the Father. He then goes through excruciating torture and humiliation to bear our sins in his own body and soul and to open the gates of heaven.

The Catechism describes love, or charity as “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.”

This virtue is something very powerful. We say something has reached perfection when it is made a certain way and it achieves the end for which it is made. For example, a sports car that is used to haul a heavy trailer is not really achieving the end for which it was made. Our Lord has given us a very simple command: love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself. Yet we often hear the word “love” used in the wrong ways and abused in our culture. We hear we need to love others–to embrace sinful life choices. We need to allow others to make really bad decisions and not try to lead them along the pathways of virtue. We are told to love equates whatever feels good. Yet this is not what our Lord is talking about. What He is talking about He lives to the fullest–we see it on the cross. That is true love.

The law of divine love accomplishes four things in us, according to St Thomas Aquinas: 1. It is the cause of our spiritual life. 2. It leads to the observance of divine commandments. 3. It provides protection against adversity. 4. It truly leads to happiness, since eternal blessedness is only promised to those who have charity.

It is the nature of love to transform the lover into the object loved. If you or I love a certain activity, our whole day will be centered around that activity, and we will eventually morph our lives around that activity. If you or I truly love God, our lives will be centred around Him. St Augustine notes that “As the soul is the life of the body, so God is the life of the soul”. The soul which acts out of love for God, acts in a way that is achieving the end for which it was made: love.

St Gregory the Great says that charity is not idle. Those who love will do great and difficult things for the one loved. A husband will go to great ends to help his wife who is suffering, even foregoing his own comfort and desires. Our Lord tells us “whoever loves me will keep my word”. In the same way, difficulties are not able to get us down–adversity is a new challenge to arise to the occasion, so to speak. We have witnessed how much our Lord has suffered for each of us, and we wish to atone for this, so adversities and suffering does not frighten the soul who loves.

Charity is the secret if we wish to be happy. Unless you or I are doing all our actions for perfect love of God and neighbor, we will not experience eternal happiness.

We have to remember the end of our lives: God has created each of us to love. If we are loving God, we will be given the energy and the strength to truly love our neighbor. Without loving God, we cannot truly love our neighbor. As Benedict XVI wrote, “If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other [person] anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God” (Deus Caritas Est, 18). We are called to give to others what they truly need: the look of the love of Jesus Christ, which we can only do if we are close to our Lord.

How can we do this? We must be close to our Lord in the Eucharist. To use the words of Benedict XVI again, “The Saints…constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbor from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its realism and depth in their service to others…No longer is it [love of God and neighbor] a question, then, of a ‘commandment’ imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must be shared with others” (ibid, 18). Love does not begin at a marriage convention: materialism is not love. Love begins in the heart of God who is very close to us in the Eucharist. If we wish to love God and neighbor, we must spend our lives oriented toward and flowing from our time spent with our Lord in the Eucharist. If we wish to change the world and respond to this commandment, we should start by replacing the cold glow of our televisions with the warm glow of the tabernacle lamp.

Note: I paraphrased from a conference given by St Thomas Aquinas. This is very good spiritual reading, and not a long read. To view the entire text, click here.

6 comments

  1. “Unless you or I are doing all our actions for perfect love of God and neighbor, we will not experience eternal happiness.”

    I confess that I have not done all my actions for perfect love of God and neighbor, and that the good that I want to do I often do not do. Do I still have a chance of obtaining eternal happiness?

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    1. Thankfully this is where the sacramental life and our prayer, especially to the Blessed Virgin Mary, for purity of intention in all our actions is helpful! Also, this has to be read in context: if we do not have an Interior life of grace, we cannot truly love our neighbor, because we will be loving using our own energies, and not with the heart of Christ.

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  2. I am not Roman Catholic but am trying to find out more. Is the standard to obtaining eternal happiness achieving perfect love to God and neighbor in all of our actions? Is complete perfection in all of our actions and attitudes necessary in this life for salvation?

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    1. Complete perfection in all of our actions and attitudes is not necessary for salvation because complete perfection is impossible for human beings due to our fallen nature. The only perfect person was Jesus and possibly Mary but you will have to forgive my ignorance. Whilst perfection should be aimed at, and that is what the saints did – aimed to be as Christlike as possible – it is not possible and berating yourself for not attaining perfection is only going to drive you away from God which is what the Devil wants.

      It is clear from your Avatar that you are on the way to holiness because you have seen the sinfulness of yourself BUT don’t become self-loathing in that. God loves us all no matter our sins. Holiness, too, as my confessor told me the other day, is a process, not instantaneous, and there is genuine beauty in our attempts to come closer to God and Jesus. If They can see that you are trying then they will be pleased with you and if you fall, well, that is why we have Confession, to absolve you of your sins, dust you down and plonk you back on your bike so that you may continue striving towards holiness and ever communion with the Lord.

      To answer your first question in my experience my earthly happiness correlates perfectly with the love I have for God and others. Happiness does lie in love for God, others and yourself. The better we are at expressing this in our actions the happier and more peaceful we become. I am far from perfect at this and can be cantankerous, angry, bitter, resentful, lonely, jealous and all the other negative emotions that blight our existence but the moments of true happiness and tranquillity lie in those times when we feel a great love for our Lord.

      Hope that helps.

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      1. I am sorry about the lack of responses here. It is a pretty full schedule being a priest! The way to have perfect love is to live the sacramental life. The more we allow Christ to live in us through being close to Him in the Sacraments, the more we share in His life. Without our Lord we can do nothing, but with Him we can do everything. For example, in confession, if the penitent has imperfect contrition, this is elevated to perfect contrition because of the sacramental graces associated with the Sacrament itself. Thus the weaker we are, the more we have to cling to Him in the Sacraments, and what a joy that is to be so close to Him.

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