In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit!
Beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Holy Gospel has taught us a necessary and most important Divine truth, which we must not only know but also implement in our lives. One day, a certain lawyer approached the Savior and asked Him which is the greatest commandment in the Law. The Lord told him that the first and most important commandment in the Law is: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets (Lk. 10:27, cf. Mt. 22:37-40).
Thus, it’s not enough just to know about God and believe in Him—we must love Him with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind. We must love God according to our human duty, according to our conscience, for we owe our very existence and life to God. The very knowledge of our creation motivates us to love God. Look, what made the great Artist create us, call us into existence, if not His goodness? The Lord created man very beautiful, giving him a wonderfully harmonious body, giving him spiritual and bodily senses by which people understand each other and can communicate. And in this is the infinite goodness and love of God for man.
The immeasurable love and wisdom of God placed man above all creatures and gave him the right to command everything and rule the entire universe. What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet (Ps. 8:5-7), exclaims the holy Psalmist David. It seems this alone should be enough to make us love God, Who created us with such wisdom. He more than anyone is worthy of our love and gratitude.
The knowledge that God created the nature around us also moves us to love Him. It wasn’t enough for the goodness of God that He created us as the most perfect beings, but He also created for man a beautiful world all around him. Why did God create the heavenly luminaries, the beautiful stars, why did He create the earth and adorn it with countless plants and flowers, fruit trees, forest, rivers, mountains, and appoint various seasons of the year? For man, that through all this man might come to know God, glorify Him, and be blessed here, on earth. For whom did God fill the air with various birds, the sea with fish, and the earth with all kinds of animals and beasts? For man, whom He placed as king over all creation.
Finally, we are disposed to love God by His great benefactions to fallen man. When Adam fell and was subjected to all kinds of misfortunes and calamities, the love of God didn’t leave him wretched and without consolation. Immediately upon the fall of man, God promised to deliver him by sending His Son Who would reconcile the offender with the justice of God and restore him to Paradise lost. And this promise of God was repeated several times through His Prophets.
But when the proliferating human tribe grew and deviated into wickedness, then the Lord chose a special people for Himself, from whom the Savior of the world was to be born. God revealed His exceptional mercy to this people, protecting them from all their enemies. He miraculously delivered them from slavery in Egypt, led them across the sea as on dry land, and exalted them before all other peoples and tribes.
Finally, the Savior of the world was born. He walked upon the earth and taught people the true knowledge of God and reverence, humbled Himself more than all others, endured various torments and death on the Cross, offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, and by His death reconciled man with God. After His Resurrection, out of love for man, He promised to be with us until the end of the ages and to resurrect us and grant us rest in His radiant habitations. He builds up and exalts the kingdoms of the earth; He both has and continues to preserve His holy Church amidst all the temptations and tribulations that the enemies of Christianity use to persecute it. God cares for every man from the day of his birth until the grave, admonishing and instructing us to do works that please Him, preserving us from danger, warning us against falls, and rewarding us for good and punishing us for evil.
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment (Mt. 22:37-38). We must never love anything or anyone more than God, whether it’s father or mother, son or daughter, or wife, because it’s all temporary; all this can be lost—God alone is eternal, and He alone will be with us forever if we love Him. He alone can bring us not temporary but unending happiness.
And it would seem that people would respond to God’s boundless love for us with reciprocated love. But in fact, we see the opposite: People so love the world with its sins that they don’t even want to think about Christ, much less love Him! They willingly distance themselves from Him; they don’t’ want to render Him worthy honor and worship. Meanwhile, it’s Christ alone Who is worthy of our deep, heartfelt love, and people will learn this when they die. Then everything that we love now will abandon us, will turn away, will run away from us; only Christ won’t abandon us either at death or after death.
Worthy of all pity are those who don’t love Christ, their Creator and Redeemer Who gave life to all of mankind. If you don’t love Christ, then He won’t love you, and without His love, you’re a dead man. If Christ doesn’t love you, then what should you expect in that difficult moment when you die, when your soul separates from your body, when the evil spirits surround you, when you appear at the Judgment of God? Then the devil will take possession of you, and you will belong to him whether you like it or not. He tries to deceive man with love for something temporary and perishable and rejoices when you don’t love Christ. Doesn’t a drunkard who’s always drawn to wine obey the will of the devil? Or a man who loves money and offends others for its sake? Love Christ, O man, with all your heart and don’t love anything else in the world if you want Christ to love you, keep you, and save you from every misfortune in this life and from perdition in the next!
The second commandment indicated by the Savior is similar to the commandment about love for God—love thy neighbor as thyself. With this commandment, the Lord seems to indicate to us how to build a happy life on earth, like the life of Paradise. The first Christians kept this commandment of the Lord precisely, and they had, according to the word of God, one heart and one soul, considering nothing their own, and there were no needy among them who were left without help (cf. Acts 4:32-35). They willingly sold themselves into slavery to free their neighbor from the shackles of slavery.
Let us pray to the Lord, dear brothers and sisters, to help us to precisely fulfill these two great commandments—love for God and for man—and thus, by fulfilling them, be vouchsafed eternal peace and joy in the future eternal life.
Source: Orthodox Christianity