One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”; and “to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength”, and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself”,—this is much more important than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ After that no one dared to ask him any question. (Mark 12:28-34 NRSV).
St. Benedict begins Chapter 4, On the Tools for Good Works in The Rule with the words from Mark 12:30-31. Any and all good works that one could do begins with the love of God, neighbor and self.
Any person of good will can do good works. I happen to believe that in God’s eyes no good work done by anyone for anyone goes unnoticed as an act of love. The Christian, however, does not do such things for the sake of themselves. A Christian goes beyond that something of whatever one has done and by word or deed honors the love of God and neighbor. As St. Benedict wrote in The Rule Chapter 19, “We believe that God is everywhere…”
Our purpose and example of what it means to love God, neighbor and ourselves begins with Jesus the Christ. In His life, death and resurrection, Jesus shows us what the love of God, neighbor and self is and how to do it. Jesus is the fulfillment of the law (see Matthew 5:17-20) in thought, word, deed and example. Jesus shows us that the love of God, neighbor and self is a sacrificial love that abandons our self will for the will of God.
As we continue on our Lenten Journey, may we spend time in prayer and contemplation about what the love of God, neighbor and self means to and for us. May they be more than words we read. May we also “mark, learn and inwardly digest them” (see The Book of Common Prayer, p.236), that they may become how we live into our relationships.
Br. Anselm Philip King-Lowe, n/OSB