When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mt 22:34-40).
Jesus, in response, was not just throwing up a cloud of theological dust into the eyes of the Pharisees. His answer to, “which commandment in the law is the greatest?” was drawn directly from the Torah. Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and merged the two verses together as one unit. His purpose was to emphasize the point that what was to be the greatest aspiration for humanity was to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves, not either/or. Jesus again was showing that he did not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but that he came to fulfill them (cf. Mt 5:17).
In this statement, Jesus also revealed the foundation of reality, the Trinitarian communion of love. For the immanence of God – God within himself – has always been, always is, and always will be a communion of love. God the Father loves the Son, God the Son receives the Father’s love and in return loves God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit is the love expressed and shared between God the Father and God the Son. The overflow and abundance of this perichoresis, or divine dance of trinitarian communion, has loved creation into existence.
This means that we as his created beings have been loved us into existence too! Created in his image and likeness means we are capable of loving him, and one another. Thus, as God has loved us so we are invited to mirror on earth the love that is shared in Heaven. It is through our participation in the love of Jesus that we can live up to his command to love our enemies, best expressed in the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:29-37).
Even in the midst of pandemic, polarization, and division, we can rejoice in the love of God, who is Love, today. We can thank him for giving us the gift of life. We can refuse to contribute to the chaos, we can take care of ourselves and each other by resisting the temptation of complacency and taking each other for granted. Life, even at its best, is fragile and can slip away from us in the blink of an eye. With each opportunity that arises, say yes to sharing the love with which we have received from God with each person we encounter.
If we catch the eye of another smile. Even behind masks, our eyes can still smile. If someone says, “How are you today?” say, “Better that you asked.” If someone interrupts you, let everything go for that moment and be really present to that invitation to engage with another. Go out of your way to do some random acts of kindness, especially for that someone who ordinarily and regularly gets under your skin. We need never fear that God’s supply will ever run out, so today, go for it! Perichoresis! Participate in the dance of God’s trinitarian Love and let his Love reign free.
“Dance, dance, wherever you may be
I am the lord of the dance, said he
And I lead you all, wherever you may be
And I lead you all in the dance, said he.”
Picture: Sharing our smiles with you. JoAnn and I at the reception following our class’s installation as a lector during formation for the permanent diaconate about nine years ago.
Chorus from the hymn: Lord of the Dance by Sydney Bertram Carter