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The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church, Windsor Nova Scotia, AD 2005

1 Corithinians 1:4f     St. Mark 12:28f


“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God”


God commands us to love him.  And so we must, for this command does not issue from any lack or insufficiency on God’s part.  He does not need our love.  This command proceeds instead from God’s very being.  He is active Love, as we are constantly reminded in the recurring refrain of the Trinity season: “God is love and he that abideth in love abideth in God and God in him”.  God commands us to love him for our sake, for the perfecting of his divine image in us.


The whole duty of the Christian appears in this command to love.  “For when the love of God precedes, the love of neighbour follows” (Augustine).  Love of God and love of neighbour sum up the whole of the Old Law and, in Christ they become both the fulfillment of the Law and the very heartbeat of Christian life.  God’s life in Christ “shall confirm you [keep you steadfast] unto the end”, say St. Paul.  That divine life is the “grace to withstand the temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil” and the reason for “pure hearts and minds to follow thee the only God”


God commands us to love him.  It is a matter of awe and wonder, a display of divine largesse, a showing forth of the super-abundant goodness of God.  For, consider how wonderful enough it would be, if God even permitted us to love him.  Perhaps, some few brave souls might take the opportunity of his permission.  Even God’s permission would be some sign of his love, some small gesture of motion towards us, a token of toleration.  Consider how more wonderful if God should not only permit us, but should invite us to love him.  Surely, there would be a greater number who would respond to his invitation, “Come unto me all ye that are heavy laden”, though, of course, there are always our endless excuses. 


But God commands us to love him.  Consider how much more wonderful a thing, beyond divine permission and holy invitation is God’s commandment.  His command is the motion of his active love towards us.  To respond in faithfulness is to let that active love move in us.  He commands us to love him because our true end, our good, lies in union with him.


Austin Farrer puts it best:

He commands us to love him, because he will have us all to do so.  He will not be deprived of any man’s love.  Nor will he be deprived of any part of our love, for he commands us not merely to love him, but to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  The love of God holds out two hands to catch and take us: one is the commandment that we should love, the other is the act of his own love in the sacrifice of Jesus.  He does not mean that we should escape him; see, he has taken us between his two hands. 

God’s commandment is but the one hand of God’s love towards us.  The other hand is Christ’s sacrifice.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son”.  The twofold love of God in commandment and in fulfillment moves in us as the active principle of our love for God and for our neighbour.  The two are intimately related.  God’s love is the basis for our love.  Divine love begets human love.


For it is from one and the same love that we love God and our neighbour; God, however, for his own sake, ourselves and our neighbours for God’s sake.  (Augustine)


What, then, does it mean to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength?  St. John Chrysostom tells us.

To love God with thy whole heart means the heart is not inclined to the love of any one thing more than it is to the love of God...  which we cannot do unless we withdraw our hearts from the love of worldly things.  To love God with thy whole mind means that all the faculties are at the disposition of God: he whose understanding serves God, whose wisdom concerns God, whose thought dwells on the things of God, whose memory is mindful only of his blessings, loves God with his whole mind.  To love God with thy whole soul means to keep the soul steadfast in truth and to be firm in faith.

To love God “with all thy strength” is to love God in everything that we do with all that lies in our power to do. 


God calls us into communion with himself.  With the one hand, he commands us to love him and all things as in him, and with the other hand he unites us to himself through the sacrifice of Christ.  “See, he has taken us between his two hands.”


“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God”