The Holy Father reflected on Sunday’s Gospel from St. Matthew, in which the Pharisees agreed to put Jesus to the test by asking Him what is the greatest commandment of the Law. Jesus’ response of loving God and neighbor, the Pope said, is something new despite both being cited in the Old Testament.
“Its newness consists precisely in putting together these two commandments - the love for God and love for the neighbor - revealing that they are inseparable and complementary, they are two sides of the same coin,” he said.
The Pope said that Benedict XVI, in his first encyclical Deus Caritas Est (nn.16-18), “left us a beautiful commentary about this.” In it, the Pontiff Emeritus states: “Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.”
Continuing his address, Pope Francis reiterated the words of his predecessor that it is in serving others that Christians can give a visible sign of love to the world. “The commandment of love to God and neighbor is the first not because it is the first in the list of commandment. Jesus does not place it in the top, but at the center because it is the heart from which everything has to start and from which everyone must return to and reference,” he said.
The Holy Father went on to say that caring for the most vulnerable is at the center of the law of the covenant and has been fulfilled by Christ, who united in His flesh, “divinity and humanity into one single mystery of love.”
“Love”, he continued, “is the measure of faith, and faith is the soul of love. We can never separate religious life from the service of the brothers and sisters, to those concrete brethren we meet. We can never divide prayer, the encounter with God in the Sacraments, from listening to others, from being close to their lives, especially from their wounds.”
The 77 year old Pontiff stressed that in “the dense forest of rules and regulations” Jesus allows us to see not a Law but two faces that become one: the face of God that can be seen in others. He also called on the faithful to ask themselves if they are able to recognize the face of God in others.
Before reciting the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis that Jesus’ response to the Pharisees gives Christians the criteria that should form the basis of their lives: the gift of the Spirit that allows all to love God and neighbor.
“Through the intercession of Mary, our Mother,” he concluded, “let us open ourselves to receive this gift of love, to walk always in this law, of two faces that are one face, in the law of love.”