The Greatest Commandment

In today’s Gospel from St. Matthew, Jesus is asked by a “scholar of the law” what is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds, “You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.” Jesus then adds, “The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

I think that we are sometimes dazzled by complexity. We expect that the solution to big issues should include a long list of dazzling feats or at least some complicated deeds.

That can be especially true when the subject is the mystery of God and the path to salvation. Surely, some think, we must have to perform something akin to the twelve labors of Hercules to achieve eternal life. I remember many years ago someone observing about the bodhicitta path to enlightment taught in Tibetan Buddhism, “It can’t just be about love.” The comment implied, love is just too simple to be the answer.

But, try as we might to complicate things, it really is that simple. No daring or extraordinary deeds like cleaning the Augean stables or capturing a Cerynitian Hind. Just love. Love God. Love one another. “The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

It really is that simple. And so today’s prayer is a simple one. In the words of a song: “Open my heart, Lord, Help me to love like you. Open my heart, Lord, Help me to Love.”

Update: re our perception that simple things can’t be the answer, my friend John reminded me of the story in 2 Kings of Naaman, king of Aram, whose first reaction is anger and derision when he is told that all he needed to do to cure his leprosy was to wash seven times in the Jordan. We should heed Naaman’s reaction when told by his servant, “if the prophet had told you to do something extraordinary, woudl you not have done it? All the more now, since he said to you, ‘Wash and be clean,’ should you do as he said.” Naaman did, and “his flesh became again like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.”