Daily Reflection
March 8th, 2002
Tom Shanahan, S.J.
University Relations and the Theology Department
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Hosea 14:2-10
Psalm 81:6-8, 8-9, 10-11, 14, 17
Mark 12:28-34

This Gospel reading has to be on the “favorites list” of lots of people.  It is a wonderful passage.  Asked by a Scribe what is the most important commandment, Jesus responds by quoting from two different Hebrew Bible texts (from the Books of Deuteronomy and Leviticus).  As rabbis and teachers before and after Jesus did, he summarized the whole of the Law and the Prophets with these two texts.  

What summarizes the whole of the Jewish law?  Love of God and love of neighbor.  It’s as simple as that!  But, as with everything of vital importance, the simplicity masks the difficulty of accomplishing it; it is easier to say than to do.

The eminent theologian, Karl Rahner, wrote a seminal article on this topic entitled, The Identity of the Love of God and the Love of Neighbor.  The article argues intricately that in the very act by which a person loves God, s/he is loving the neighbor; and, on the other hand in the very act in which a person loves the neighbor, s/he loves God.  

In other words, he says there is an identity to the two loves that ultimately make them the one and the same love.  They are not just like each other; they are the same thing.  Thus, when I truly love God, I am in that same instant loving the neighbor and when I truly love the neighbor, I am in the same act loving God.  Wow!  It does provide an answer to the question, “How do I love God?”  I love God when I love the neighbor. 

The neighbor is anyone whom I love.  In another place in the Gospel, Jesus identifies the neighbor as the Samaritan who cared for the man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead.  How did the Samaritan love the neighbor?  He tended to him in his need in an unselfish way.  In a still other passage of the gospel it is in the simple act of clothing the naked, feeding the poor, visiting the imprisoned, that are the criteria for my being ultimately saved.

Our challenge, then, is to enact our love of God by our loving one another.  We make real our love of God by our actions of love, peace, and justice towards one another.  Lord, God, help us to truly love you and to truly love one another as men and women of faith and hope.  Keep us close to You by being close to each other.

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