"You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind." (Mt 22:37) What does it mean to "love"? While growing up in the U.S. learning the society culture and English language, I learned that in English the word "love" is a bit common unless it is personalized. In English, when someone likes something very much, such as a particular food or something that is special and personal, the expressed meaning is the equivalent to saying in Spanish "I like it very much." In Spanish you would never say "I love eating ice cream." In our language the word "love" has such a profound meaning that it is not used in reference to an object but to a being for whom an immeasurable affection is felt. We would say "I love my parents," "I love my husband and my son." If there is an object that we like a lot we would say "I like very much the color purple" or "The color purple is my favorite color."
The Gospel for October 26 speaks of that kind of love. Notice how Jesus asks us to love the Lord, our God, "with all your heart, your soul and your mind." Wow! He asks our most profound selves to love God; our deepest feelings, our own existence and our very thoughts. That truly is an immeasurable love. That is truly how God loves us. He asks that we return that same affection that He has for us. He loves all that we are and all who we are. He expects the same, to not only love Him but all that is Him. Many of us say we love God but sometimes our love is equivalent to "liking very much."
When I say "loving everything that is God" I am referring to loving all that is life. God is life. He created us to live, He created all things so that we may live and He created others so we would not live alone. The Gospel also says, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Mt 22:39) Our very being is worthy of love as well as everything that is life: nature and all living things. October is Respect Life Month. How perfect that this Gospel is part of this month. Our Lord Jesus asks that we love ourselves because we are God’s creation and that we love our neighbors and all that is of God because so are they. The Lord also says that "The whole law and the prophets depend on these two." (Mt 22:40) All that comes from God comes from love; all that we do and how we live should always be with this in mind.
All that God gives us is worthy of respect because He asks that we love all and everyone. He never said it would be easy either because the great challenge of this commandment is to love ALL AND EVERYONE, even those that are most difficult to love. This way we reach the perfection of the love that God has and asks of us.
Johnston is intercultural program specialist for diocesan Parish & Clergy Services’ Office of Cultural Diversity.