On the First Commandment
by Fr Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem.
How beautiful a thing it is that God has given us as the first and greatest commandment to love Him with our whole heart, mind and strength. For what could be more natural than to love the source of our being with our whole being; what could be more desirable than to love without limits the Good which is unlimited. Truly Jesus has given us a sweet and light yoke, something very easy. It is as if He had said, “I command you to be happy, I command you to rejoice with all your heart,” for truly to love God is our happiness and to rejoice with all our hearts. And not only that, but all the other commandments as well are fulfilled in fulfilling this one. St. Paul says that he who loves has fulfilled the whole Law, and St. Augustine said, “Love God and do what you will.”
But as if it were not enough for God to give us such a light and desirable commandment, God, knowing the smallness of our human hearts, has gone even farther. He knows that we are inclined from fear and self-centeredness to love ourselves rather than Him, and so to remedy this shortcoming in us, God has also given a command to Himself: that He should love us with His whole being. It is as if He says to us, “I shall take care of loving you with My whole heart, so that you can attend to loving Me with your whole heart. You no longer need to worry about loving yourself, since that is My job now.”
And since He knows that we are afraid and reluctant to love another unless we are first sure of their love for us, He became a man to show us His love. If we could not love Him from the beginning, He thought, at least we could respond to His love. “We love because God has first loved us.”
And because He knows that we are prone to pride and so we reject anything given to us in the form of a command, He became a man not so much to demand as to beg for our love. I have often meditated upon the ninth Station of the Cross and thought how Jesus lying prostrate under His Cross is simply begging from us alms of love.
I believe that in the next life we shall be very surprised how Jesus, for the sake of a small and finite good such as we are, was willing to endure the cross and death, while for the sake of an infinite good we are very unwilling to accept even the smallest crosses. We shall marvel at our lack of good sense.
In this holy season of Lent, let us see this great commandment for what it truly is, and this will be more pleasing than any sacrifice, and then we shall indeed be close to the Kingdom of God.
Queen Esther was a uniquely pleasing person to behold. We hear this repeatedly throughout her story and, ultimately, are told that she “found grace and favor in the eyes of all who saw her.”
The first Sunday of Lent offers one of the shortest texts for a Gospel in the whole liturgical year. It is only sixty-four words. St. Mark’s account of the Temptation in the Desert takes just two verses and is about as succinct as one can be. Now, I am not the evangelist Mark. So don’t expect a short sermon. Settle in. And listen in.
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