Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
This passage of Scripture begins with the Pharisees trying to trick Jesus into saying something that would be politically inflammatory — “Is it appropriate to pay tribute to Caesar?” After that they tried to get him to say something say something that would be divisive for the Pharisees and the Sadducees concerning the nature of marriage, at which time he stated that neither of them understood marriage. After that we finally get around to the question of the greatest commandment. Here Jesus makes the Law of Love the greatest of the commandments:
Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all they soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.
Jesus combined two commandments to make the greatest commandment and that has exercised authority over subsequent formulations in the Church ever since. St. Paul did not pluck his well know triad of theological virtues (Faith, Hope and Love) from thin air. Jesus’ moral authority over the Church has led his disciples from the beginning to focus our ethical life around this single theme of love — “the greatest of these,” Paul reminds us, “is love.” The primacy love in virtually all early texts, sermons, narratives, and theological papers, from Paul to Peter, to John, to the Fathers would not have been possible had the Church not received “this primacy from the mouth of the one Teacher who united them.” Love unites worship, doctrine, and life. Love is the greatest of all virtues and Christ has made love, as a behavior, our most accurate way to identify a Christian. And the truth is, we may live lives of love because the heavenly virtues of faith, hope, and love have been infused into our soul through the grace of Holy Baptism. Because we really and truly participate in the life of the Shepherd of Love through the grace of baptism and the sacrament of the Altar, we really and truly can live a life of love in the Church and in the world.
Jesus uses three modifying phrases to the love of God. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind; that is with all our being, with all that we have and all that we are. Our love for neighbor is to be equivalent to our own self-love. The rich, the poor, the hungry, the blind, those we love and those we cannot stand, the other person whoever he or she may be is a person Jesus loves and died for and we are to remind ourselves of that fundamental fact of the universe:
“So God loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son…”
The Law of Love brings a godly perspective to the first two questions. Our heavenly citizenship conditions all other citizenships; the authority of the King of Kings actually establishes the reality of any authority, and our heavenly Spouse conditions our participation in the temporal institution of Holy Matrimony; and the God of Love, the divine Messiah not only calls his spouse, the Church, to live according to the Law of Love with all our heart, soul and mind, but he has enable her so to do.