Because of Practical Instruction Like This

Posted by Frank
Yesterday, Webster posted this note about the close friendship of Saints Basil and Gregory. Back in the middle of December 2009, Webster penned this note with the title Because of “Such a Friend” where the subject of male friendships surfaced as a topic for discussion. I bring this up because I posted the following comment to that discussion:

They (the Disciples) junked the “think only of myself” model and exchanged it for the “two greatest commandments” model. “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.” Say this to yourself as a mantra and I guarantee your decision making matrix will change.

From the Office of Readings in the LOTH this morning, I was surprised to see St. Augustine flesh out what I had thought was an original idea (Qoheleth is laughing now) over 1600 years before I could possibly have even thought it! Relieved, then, is probably a more accurate description of how I felt. In one of his tractates (lectures) on the Gospel of John he writes:

The Lord himself came, the Teacher of love, full of love, “shortening the word upon the earth”, as it was foretold he would do. He showed that from the two precepts of love depend the whole of the Law and the prophets.

Yes, I remember the passage he is alluding to where Our Lord and a scholar of the law have this discussion in the Gospel of Matthew (22:36-40). Augustine continues on as follows,

What are these two commandments? Join me, my brethren, in recollecting them. They ought to be thoroughly familiar to you and not just come to your mind when we recite them: they ought never to be blotted out from your hearts. Always and everywhere, bear in mind that you must love God and your neighbor, “love God with all your heart, and with all your soul, with all your mind, and love your neighbor as you would love yourself.”

We must always ponder these words, meditate them, hold them in our minds, practice them, and bring them to fruition.

Which is what I suggested in my comment above. A take on the exhortation of the Apostle Paul to “pray without ceasing” from his letter to the Thessalonians. He continues,

As far as teaching is concerned, the love of God comes first; but as far as doing is concerned, the love of your neighbor comes first.

Yes! As James “the slave of Christ” exhorts in his letter, “Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.” (James 1:22)

Whoever sets out to teach you these two commandments of love must not commend your neighbor to you first and then God, but God first and then your neighbor.

Put first things first!

You, on the other hand, do not yet see God, but loving your neighbor will bring you that sight. By loving your neighbor, you purify your eyes so that they are ready to see God as John clearly says: “If you do not love your brother, whom you see, how can you love God, whom you don’t see?”

I have much work to do on this front, believe me! Who doesn’t? But again I am grateful for the Communion of the Saints and the practical, day-to-day examples and simple instruction they give me to living a Christian life in this world.

P.S. St. Augustine wrote 124 lectures on the 21 chapters Gospel of John. You can find them here.

  • Mary P.

    I think, Frank, that you have hit upon the crux of where society today has departed from the (dare I say something so politically incorrect?) the Gospels. Those two golden rules, I believe, are common to most religions. But they've evolved from "Love me as your neighbor" to "Accept me with all of my flaws" to "It's my decision, and If you can't respect my decisions then you don't love and/or accept me for 'who' I am." Somehow, entitlement gets a foothold in the picture.But in my humble opinion, what they don't understand is that society is a collection of microcosms. If everyone lived by those two golden rules, then what would our society be like? But in asking other to tolerate the decisions that we make individually, which supposedly hurt only ourselves or aren't anyone else' business, then what is the net effect on our society? On the other hand, we are asked not to judge our neighbor. We are asked to love the sinner, but hate the sin, as Mother Teresa has shown us to do. Unfortunately, most of us fall far short of her example.Obviously, were called to find some sort of balance. But I suppose what we're really being called for is to take care of ourselves first (by following those two golden rules) by way of taking care of our brother, who isn't following them or can't? Maybe our brother is put there as a test for us, someone who makes those decisions that we don't understand or agree with, but we're still called to love him? Or maybe to ultimately show him that it is possible, indeed it is far preferable, to put ourselves in the background and serve others first? Clearly, this is how God expects us to serve others.I don't know, I'm just musing here as a type. I know there are far wiser readers out there who can illuminate the subject far better than I can!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    I have said it before, and I'll probably say it again…loving others is the hardest thing to really do. Easy to talk about it in the abstract…Being a Marine was a cake walk in comparison. And loving others without fleeing the world into a hermits life in a cell in the desert? Well, I can't flee to the desert so I have to stick it out with the hard stuff. And though I am far from an expert practitioner of this commandment, this idea of keeping it in the forefront of my mind has helped me get along better with others. And it makes it easier for me to see God in everyone.

  • Maria

    I suspect the anchorite in the desert would challenge your assertions.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    P82…or he might tell me to fulfill my vocation of father and husband dutifully, until such a time comes when my vocation will change. ;-)I love reading the sayings of the Desert Fathers. Like these gems:"Either fly as far as you can from the world, or else, laughing at the world and those who are in it, make yourself a fool in many things.""f you see a young monk by his own will climbing up into heaven, take him by the foot and pull him back down to earth, because what he's doing is no good for him."And how about this one for "the capper"?"It was told of Abbot John the Dwarf that once he had said to his elder brother: I want to live in the same security as the angels have, doing no work, but serving God without intermission. And casting off everything he had on, he started out into the desert. When a week had gone by he returned to his brother. And when he knocked on the door, his brother asked: Who are you? He replied: I am John. Then his brother answered and said: John has become an angel and is no longer among men. But John kept on knocking and said, It is I. Still the brother did not open, but kept him waiting. Finally, opening the door, he said: If you are a man, you are going to have to start working again in order to live. But if you are an angel, why do you come into a cell? So John did penance and said: Forgive me, brother, for I have sinned."If you can guess my confirmation name, I'll give you a gold star! ;-)

  • Warren Jewell

    Confirmed as 'the Dwarf', Frank plunged on into love, first, of self that all love be possible and true; then to God, Who made the love our Dwarf has even for himself; thence, to his neighbors, who really need his love that he grow in love of all. May you be immersed in love, Frank, our Dwarf. May He Who made love and is Love help you grow in such love as that you hum from it. Thus, Frank, the Love Humming Dwarf. :]

  • Warren Jewell

    Didst I gitst a gold star?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01819831282677092730 Frank

    Thanks Warren! And no gold star, but an "E" for effort. :-)


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