love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and
with thy whole mind.
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
In his first Epistle, Saint John tells
us, in effect, that “it is easier to love our neighbor, whom we see” than it is
to “love God whom we do not see.”
We might take exception with Saint John, for we have all encountered people who
are hard to like. Some people are lazy or slovenly. Some may be dirty and even
smell bad. Others may be haughty and condescending, trying to make us feel
inferior and unlikeable ourselves. But I think Saint John is just pointing to
the reality that people's intellect and will are formed by their senses. We
require the input of our senses to decide that someone is likable or unlikable.
So, how then are we to follow this Great Commandment to “Love God with our whole
being”? How are we to know a Being who is pure Spirit?
We can begin by recognizing that God
elected to enter human history roughly two thousand years ago, adding human
nature to the divine, and taking up human flesh by overshadowing the Blessed
Virgin Mary, being born in the town of Bethlehem, and being given the name
“Jesus.” While that “Incarnation” was thousands of years and thousands of miles
away, we have the testimony of eyewitnesses—people who walked with Him, talked
with Him, ate with Him, witnessed His miracles, saw Him die on the cross, and
witnessed the fact of His glorious Resurrection three days later.
We also have the Old Testament body of
literature that sets the stage for the Incarnation. It describes the fact of
creation, the fall of Adam and Eve, and God’s continuing relationship with His
fallen creatures—the giving of His Commandments and the prescription of the way
in which He wanted to be worshipped. He did not abandon His people.
Some of what we know comes to us through
“Tradition.” Some things were passed by word of mouth, and not immediately
written down like the books of the Bible.
As if the written record were not
enough, we can know something of God in the works of creation. To look up into
the sky on a clear night; to experience the power of the rising sun; to witness
the miracle of life from conception through childbirth to maturity and even
Here, with the magnificence of creation,
three pitfalls must be avoided. First, as the Book of Wisdom cautions we must
not mistake these magnificent works for the Workman: We must not
imagine “the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or
the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world.
These are not gods; they are but the works of God.
The second pitfall to be avoided is the
mistake that modern science has demonstrated the possibility of creation without
a Creator. Far from it, the tools of modern science have revealed a far greater
complexity in creation than what we can see with the naked eye. Today we know
that the stars are not mere pinpricks of light on a black background—there is a
much more complex structure. Today we can look deep down into the mysteries of
life itself to see incredible (and inter‑related) complexity in a great
diversity of species. Yet we are no better able to explain these things than
the author of Genesis could explain them. The modern scientist must say to God,
with his Old Testament counterpart, “Thou hast ordered all things in measure,
and number, and weight.”
The third pitfall is that of Modernists
claiming to be Christian theologians who want to make the universe evolve into
man and even into God! For these pantheists, the universe and not God is the
source of all things.
Some hold that the earth itself—Gaia—is to be worshipped!
Some claim a “Cosmic Christ”—a “third nature” of God that manifested itself in
the light streaming forth from the “Big Bang” of creation.
Most of these people are obvious frauds and crackpots, but we must be careful!
Finally, we know God more directly in
the Mass and the Sacraments. In Holy Mass we take a role in the Sacrifice of
His Son on the Cross—with the priest and with Christ, we make the holiest
offering possible—we offer Christ Himself to His Father. In Holy Communion we
are intimately united to God in His Son, receiving both His humanity and His
So we know God in the Scriptures, both
Old and New. And we know God in the unwritten traditions of Christianity. We
know God in His Mass and His Sacraments. And we know God in the works of His
creation—but we have seen that this source requires some caution. I want to
leave you with the understanding that all of these are but “jumping-off
points.” It remains for us to take these sources and to meditate
on them. We should examine the implications of everything we know about God.
Yes, God created the magnificent
universe out of nothing!—but, why did He create it? Why did He create man and
women out of the clay of the earth?
When they didn’t meet His expectations, why didn’t He just roll them back into a
ball of clay and start all over? Why did He overshadow the Virgin in order to
begin a life of poverty and suffering and death?
If you go to these sources, you will
have thousands of questions, all beginning with the word “Why.” You will begin
to know God better. And when you realize that virtually all of your questions
can be answered only if we acknowledge God’s love for us, then you will be well
on your way to “Loving God with your whole being, and your neighbor as yourself.