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The Great Commandment
The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” -- Matthew 19: 16-26

Once a lawyer approached Jesus with a question to test Him, saying: “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus told him: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

Many times we are surrounded by love and the loved ones, yet that love which we assume as ‘love for God and the neighbor’ is actually a sort of hypocrisy, because it involves only those who love us back, when it comes to love those that hate us we often fail.

Our Lord Jesus Christ made it clear when He pronounced this great commandment in which He defined love as an attribute of mind, soul and heart, rather then anything else. Because otherwise that love which we possess, if there is any, has not sprung from its original source, that is to say from God. We all know according to St. John that God is love, and he states it thus: “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (I Jn. 4:16) Thus if the true manifestation of God is not present in our love then that love is not of truth but of human feelings, passions, and emotions.

Love is not a soul, mind or heart inflamed with desire or passion for someone or something but it has a totally different character. True love is as St. Paul describes it in his letter to I Corinthians, chapter 13: “Love suffers long and it is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, it is not puffed up….” Jesus was talking about this kind of love and in this kind of love we can find the blessings and the fulfillment of the desires we hope for.

There are three forms of the manifestations of God towards us in which we ought to abide and these are, according to St. Paul: Faith, Hope and Love, but Love is above all.

And now let us see how God manifested Himself in these three forms. Our Father Abraham loved God and believed His word to the extent that he was ready to bring his only son as a sacrifice. For his faith God blessed him and in that seed we all exist. We all exist because Abraham believed God.

Second our existence should have a hope and that hope was first manifested in the people of Israel who were brought out of Egypt through Moses’ pure hope of seeing the Promised Land. Moses himself did not go to that Promised Land, which actually was the shadow of the future promise fulfilled in Christ. But Moses’ hope was fulfilled on the Mount Tabor at our Lord’s Transfiguration, there he saw the Promised Land, the New Jerusalem that came down from heaven revealed in the person of Jesus Christ.

And the third God’s manifestation in which we were called to abide in is Love, yet we humans fail in this one therefore God Himself had to become the subject of offering it. Thus God manifests His supreme Love towards us all in the person of Jesus Christ, the fullness of man. That’s why St. Apostle Paul states that love is above all because love is divine. Love is of divine origin because God is love and in that love we are all called to abide and to share in the kingdom of God.

Nevertheless, we have seen briefly what our Lord expects from us when we freely decide to be His followers, and if the decision is made and we are not honest about it then we become just as St Paul puts it: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and I have no love…. Though I have the gift of prophecy,… and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains,… And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not love it profit me nothing, I am nothing”.

So if I am nothing, what’s the use of my existence?

Fr. Myroslav Schirta

Rev. Myroslav Schirta serves at St. Sophia parish in Bayonne, NJ
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