Jesus came not to abolish the Old Testament law, but to fulfill it (see Matthew 5:17). And in this Sunday’s Gospel, he reveals that love — of God and of neighbor — is the fulfillment of the whole of the law (see Romans 13:8-10).
Devout Israelites were to keep all 613 commands found in the Bible’s first five books. Jesus says that all of these, and all the teachings of the prophets, can be summarized by two verses of this law (see Deuteronomy 6:5; Leviticus 19:18).
He seems to summarize the two stone tablets on which God was said to have engraved the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 32:15-16). The first tablet set out three laws concerning the love of God — such as the command not to take his name in vain. The second contained seven commands regarding love of neighbor, such as those against stealing and adultery. Love is the hinge that binds the two tablets of the law. For we can’t love God, whom we can’t see, if we don’t love our neighbor, whom we can (see 1 John 4:20-22).
But this love we are called to is far more than simple affection or warm sentiment. We must give ourselves totally to God — loving with our whole beings, with all our heart, soul and mind. Our love for our neighbor must express itself in concrete actions, such as those set out in Sunday’s First Reading.
We love because he first loved us (see 1 John 4:19). As we sing in Sunday’s Psalm, he has been our deliverer, our strength when we could not possibly defend ourselves against the enemies of sin and death.
We love in thanksgiving for our salvation. And in this become imitators of Jesus, as Paul tells us in Sunday’s Epistle — laying down our lives daily in ways large and small, seen and unseen; our lives offered as a continual sacrifice of praise (see John 15:12-13; Hebrews 13:15).