You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

You’ve probably heard this phrase countless times. It’s a variation on “the Golden Rule” and the second of the two “greatest commandments” that Jesus describes in Matthew 22:39: treat your neighbor with love as you would want to be loved.

In that simple phrase, we see boiled down all the dos and don’ts itemized in the law that Moses hands down in today’s first reading. It makes clear that love is the foundation of the Law. Don’t steal or defraud—love your neighbor. Don’t lie—love your neighbor. Don’t mock or mistreat someone with a disability—love your neighbor. Hold no grudges or hatred in your heart—love your neighbor.

It almost seems too simplistic, but the truth is that this “law of love” can expand our hearts and bring life to our efforts at obeying the commandments. That’s because we all know the joy of being loved by God. That’s the ultimate love we were created to experience. If that is the kind of love we want, then that is the kind of love we should try to share with the people around us. In our concern for what is best for them, we should help them receive the love and life they were created for. That’s the “why” behind our call to obey the commandments.

To love others as we are loved: this is the best yardstick we could use for measuring our choices. Whether we’re preparing for Confession or reviewing the events of our day before bed, the question “Did I love other people as I would want to be loved?” can give us a lot to explore. Is that word I spoke to my friend a loving word? Was the way I treated my coworker really the most loving thing to do? When I failed to meet a need that arose, did I miss an opportunity to love?

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you see your choices in the light of love. Ask him to help you make love the basis of the way you relate to the people around you and the reason why you try to obey the commandments. Because love is the foundation and the fulfillment of the Law.

“Lord, I want to see all your commands as ways you are teaching me to love!”

Leviticus 19:1,2, 11-18
Psalm 19:8-10, 15
Matthew 25:31-46


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