Only Love
31st Sunday

Antonio P. Pueyo
Reproduced with Permission

There are stories told about St. John the Evangelist who was said to have spent his last years as an old man in the island of Patmos. He was asked, “ Why do you keep writing and talking about love?” His answer was, “Is there anything else more important?” Indeed, “Ubi caritas, ibi Deus.” Where there is love there is God for God is love (1John 4: 7ff.

Action starter: Is God real in your life?


When Jesus was asked in today’s Gospel about which is the first among all the commandments, he was being asked to give his opinion on a matter that occupied rabbinical debate (Mk 12:28ff). It was not merely an academic exercise. It was a practical matter for an observant Jew. With 613 commandments to observe, it makes sense to identify which among all these is the most important and covers all the other commandments. One can then focus on the weightier matters of the law.

Jesus’ answer was not new. He cited the two great commandments: First, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Second, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. The latter is practical enough. It is known as the golden Rule and appears in many philosophical and religious traditions, whether formulated positively or negatively. The oriental teacher Confucius talks of the Principle of the Measuring Square. One should not treat the person on his right, the way he would not like to be treated by the person on his left. He should not treat the person in front of him the way he would not like to be treated by the person behind him.

The first commandment however is not as pragmatic or utilitarian. It is God-centered. It speaks of total preoccupation with God . Or perhaps a better way of description is that of being immersed in God. One who has fallen in love knows what it means to love someone with all his heart, his soul, his mind, and his strength. It is like a madness that takes over a person’s whole being. Many times the madness is temporary. The feelings fade and the lover sees the reality of the beloved instead of the romantic image. Romantic love does not last. There is more to love that the romantic version.

The love of God is not a romantic affair although it can begin like a romance, as spiritual writers describe the stages of loving God. It is not a utilitarian or pragmatic relationship either. I would be insulted if someone tells me that she loves me because it increases her chances for promotion in her job. Or that he loves me because it inspires him to greater heights of artistic expression. I would feel used indeed. In the same manner we do not love God because it will make us rich, or give us peace of mind, or make us morally upright. We love God because God is.

The comparison might be a bit off, but just the same, I’m reminded of a mountain climber who was asked why he risks his life climbing mountains. His only answer was, “Because it is there.” Why love God? Because God is God.

My early catechism taught me that God created me “to know Him, to love Him, to serve Him, and to be with Him in heaven.” In my older years I would like to shorten it to, “because God loves me.” I was also taught that God merits all my love because He created me. That is why I should praise, thank, worship, adore and serve God. In my older years, I would like to simplify it. One who is loved can only love. Love begets love.