There comes the point when we wonder how well we are fulfilling the greatest commandment to love God above all others and things. Starting to wonder about this is a sign of healthy spiritual growth, whether it is the beginning of a religious conversion or continued growth after that. How does one find answers to what they wonder about this regard, about how they live that first greatest commandment? The answer to this is looking at the commandment that follows it; the love of our neighbor as ourselves.
Saint Teresa of Avila, a Carmelite saint, suggested a way of answering this inquiry about the love of God. In the fifth mansion of her work, The Interior Castle, she says something to the extent that since we cannot be sure of the degree by which we are loving God, as in what could it ever be compared to, we should first look to see how we love our neighbors. If there is real, intentional love for our neighbors, this gives us something to measure from. How we can get this measurement comes straight from Christ’s teaching in the Gospel.
In the Gospel, according to Matthew, Jesus speaks of His return and the judgment accompanying it. He explains that the thing that will separate the sheep from the goats, those on the right from the left, is love or lack thereof. Jesus explains that one can show love for Him in how they love any of their neighbors, that as we do for any neighbor, we, in turn, do to Him. He teaches that the heart by which we love Him is the same heart in which we love our neighbor. Another way of looking at it is that the heart we love our neighbors with is the same heart we are to love God with.
You cannot love God without loving your neighbor, and you cannot love your neighbor without loving God.Pope Francis, Angelus 10.26.2014
Furthermore, if anyone will diligently examine into the causes of the evils of our day, he will find that they arise from this, that as charity towards God has grown cold, the mutual charity of men among themselves has likewise cooled.Pope Leo XIII, MIRAE CARITATIS – ON THE HOLY EUCHARIST
Our Lord’s revealing of the effects of our love for others gets more profound the more we think about it. It should open our eyes to consider more what happens as we love our neighbors and the times when we don’t love our neighbors. Both expressions impact our relationship with God, who is Love itself.
As I began to focus in the post on God’s Standards vs. The Worlds, I immediately thought about how the world’s standards certainly taint love. If you’ll recall, Saint Paul tells the Corinthians that not many of them were wise by human standards, and not many were considered powerful or of any great status. Paul was getting them to see that the world works by different definitions and standards, unlike those of the God they follow. their attempt to live by other people’s standards. The same can be said of love. The world lives by a very skewed definition of love, one that is far from how it is presented in the Gospel.
Their definition is far off because, for us, God is Love; we automatically bring God into any relationship when we authentically love them. Obviously, the converse is true; when we act contrary to love with anyone, we remove God from that relationship, ourselves, and that person. That contrary way of thinking oftentimes comes from that part of our culture that is more wrapped up in the love of self than anything.
To close, if you find yourself at the point of wondering how well you love God, as in how it can be measured, look at the type of love you have for others. When you look at that love, do it using God’s standard of love, not the world’s.
Matthew 25:40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’
Matthew 25:45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”RSV
What a great post! This has great information to use for a meditation. Thanks for taking the time to expound on this important topic.