Ten commandments can seem like a lot to manage, and the scribe (student of the scripture) who questions Jesus might be trying to simplify things by getting to the heart of the matter. He asks Jesus: ‘Which is the greatest of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied,
the Lord our God is the one Lord,
and you must love the Lord your God
with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You must love your neighbour as yourself.
There is no commandment greater than these.’
Perhaps we have complicated things, but as always Jesus brings us back to the heart of all human existence. It’s very simple. It’s all about love.
Pope Benedict (Joseph Ratzinger) was elected as pope in 2005, and a few months later on Christmas Day he published his first encyclical. He was one of the great theologians of the Second Vatican Council and is one of the most prolific spiritual writers of the past century. I imagine that as a newly elected pope aged almost 80 Pope Benedict might have been thinking that he wouldn’t have much time to present what he knew to be the heart of the Christian message. So he got right to it a few months after his election on Christmas Day 2005 with the publication of his first encyclical “God is Love.”
- Invite Jesus to speak to you as you slowly read these quotations from Pope Benedict’s encyclical “God is Love.” Don’t think too much about what you read, simply open your mind and heart and slowly read, stopping when a phrase seems to speak to you. After you have read each quotation allow your mind to return to the most significant phrase and use that phrase as a mantra to repeat it often throughout the day.
- I have a favourite in the quotation list below. You can probably guess which one…
“We have come to believe in God’s love: in these words the Christian can express the fundamental decision of his life. Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.
“God’s love for us is fundamental for our lives, and it raises important questions about who God is and who we are. In considering this, we immediately find ourselves hampered by a problem of language. Today, the term “love” has become one of the most frequently used and misused of words, a word to which we attach quite different meanings.
“Seeing with the eyes of Christ, I can give to others much more than their outward necessities; I can give them the look of love which they crave.”
“The ‘commandment’ of love is only possible because it is more than a requirement. Love can be ‘commanded’ because it has first been given.”
“It is characteristic of mature love that it calls into play all of a person’s potentialities; it engages the whole man, so to speak. Contact with the visible manifestations of God’s love can awaken within us a feeling of joy born of the experience of being loved. But this encounter also engages our will and our intellect. Acknowledgment of the living God is one path towards love, and the “yes” of our will to his will unites our intellect, will and sentiments in the all- embracing act of love. But this process is always open-ended; love is never “finished” and complete; throughout life, it changes and matures, and thus remains faithful to itself.”
And my favourite quotation from God is Love:
“Being Christian is not the result
of an ethical choice or a lofty idea,
but the encounter with an event,
a person, who gives life a new horizon
and a decisive direction.”