Which commandment is the first of all?
Jesus was asked to mediate amongst disputing scribes. His answer loud and clear: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself -there is no other but He; and to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices." And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him "You are not far from the kingdom of God." Mark chap. 12, 30-34.
I was under the erroneous impression that since I go to church regularly, light my candle and throw a few dollars in the plate, I'm a God-loving person. The truth is that I have used all my heart for the desires of this world, all my mind and my understanding to establish my earthly career goals, and all my strength for sports and temporary activities.
Therefore I am very far from God and His Kingdom, and the more I search my inner-self, the more I examine my spiritual condition, I begin to realize that I don't really love God. I do not have religious faith and I'm full of pride and materialism. These facts I discovered about myself after a careful inner examination.
The diagnosis shows that I don't love God! If I truly loved God I would be in constant dialogue with Him - in the morning in the car, at work, out of work, in school, on vacation, in the air and the sea. He is everywhere. Every thought about God would give me joy and gladness. Furthermore, I would be especially happy in His home. But why is it that I find myself getting there late while during the week I'm always on time for my other business matters? Why does my mind wander and my spirit is everywhere but where it is supposed to be? And while I can sit for many hours through a sports event, a basketball final, football final, fishing derby, in front of my computer, I have to force myself through a Sunday morning service.
When two people have genuine love for each other and they announce their love through engagement, they cannot wait to get off work so they can be in each other's company. It is no longer natural for them to live separately, so with the blessed sacrament of marriage they unite and are always with each other. In a similar manner, if I truly loved God I would want to be constantly talking to Him at every hour and every place. Unfortunately, while I can easily stay on the telephone for hours with any one of my friends or family members, I have to force myself to pray to God. In the morning I can easily spend 45 minutes on coffee and the newspaper, yet I try to hurry through my morning prayers.
I remember a few years ago when I used to watch television that I would sit for three and four hours watching a football game, movie, or anything else, and my eyes would be glued to the set. Why is it that I cannot spend a small fraction of that time to thank my Creator who allows me to wake up every morning and keep breathing through the day?
Day after day I strive to learn and experience new things, I spend hours on my work, my studies my career. All through the years I labored - mostly in vain - to meet people, and to get to know them as much as possible, even though I will only be with them for ten-twenty, fifty years, but I have made every little effort to get to really and truly know the one person that died for me the person that promises to me an eternal prince, the person I'm supposed to spend eternity with, the person of Jesus Christ.
Even now while I spend 15-20 hours a day for earthly things I can hardly spend more than an hour or two working on my salvation and eternal life.
If love towards God is keeping His commandments as Jesus stated "if you love me you will keep my commandments." Not only do I not keep his commandments but I avoid learning them very well.
While I spend hours on the manual of a new car that will rust in a few years, hours on the manual of motorboat, computer stereo, or VCR, I can hardly spend a few minutes with His Manual that teaches about Him, about His life, His qualities, His commandments, and His Way -the manual to Eternal life.
The football player commits himself to his coach and his coach and his team, so does the basketball player. The gymnast perfects his or her routine for years and years, so does the high jumper, the pole vaulter, the swimmer, the diver, the sprinter, the javelin thrower, the discus thrower, the ice skater, the marathon runner�And all of this for a possible 10 minute appearance in finals, nationals, or Olympics. And why don't I have a fraction of that zeal for the biggest game of all-the game of my salvation? A game that I don't love God, and the proof is that don't keep his commandments, while he continues to love me and allows me to exist.
After further examination of my inner self I find that I don't truly love my neighbor. Jesus said you must love your neighbor as yourself, and if necessary to give your life for him. Not only do I not do that, but I hardly go out of my way for him. I should have happiness when he is happy , and sadness when he is sad. However, I laugh and joke at some of the downfalls and weaknesses of my neighbors. When someone is gossiping about a third person's sins, mistakes, or general shortcomings, I don't walk away, but open my ears more and don't hesitate to laugh about it. If I had Christian Love I would avoid all kinds of gossip and would feel happiness when someone's hard work gets them a better house, better garden, better job, higher wages, and a higher spirituality. On the contrary, many times I feel jealousy creeping in, as well as disgust and contempt for my fellow human. I pretend to be all smiles on the outside, but on the inside there are traces of envy, malice, anger, and misery, which are uncharacteristic of the true Christian Love.
Many times I ignore my own sins, my own weaknesses. I overlook and justify my shortcomings, but get easily scandalized or pass judgments on the weaknesses of the other person, while in a few hours I will be asking "our Father to forgive my trespasses�"
'In a final attempt to further examine myself, I discovered that I don't have the true faith-If I believed totally and absolutely in Life after death and the Gospel, I would be different person. Here on Earth I respect the laws of the State-I don't steal, I don't kill, I don't get drunk and disorderly, and I pay my taxes because I'm afraid of the state prison, yet I ignore the everlasting prison that awaits me. Subconsciously I have this though-who really knows what goes on after I die? Maybe death is the end of it all!
When I talk about Eternal life my intellect agrees with it, but my heart is far from being convinced. And this lack of Faith is proven by the attention I give to temporary things. Christ said one thing is necessary, but I live my life like I'm going to be here forever-I insure my life, I insure my health, I insure my home, insure my car. I'm insured for earthquakes, I'm insured for floods, I'm insured for fires, and I'm insured at the bank. I insure and manage my checkbooks here on earth, but what insurance policy will help me on that terrible day? Which one of these insurance companies and agents will mean anything during the judgment seat of Christ?
Will my spiritual checking account be properly balanced? A negative balance would mean eternal punishment and torment. Knowing this I should strive to increase my spiritual deposit as I grow older. I should receive the sacraments more seriously and more often, with more vigilance, watchfulness, and conviction.
If I truly believed in the Gospel I would look at the Earth as a Hotel, my house as a rental room-none of my belongings are mine, they belong to the Hotel owner-I came without them and I'm leaving without them.
I don't love God because I don't believe in Him, I don't have Faith in Him, because I didn't go all out to get to know Him. The church fathers say that Faith presupposes proper knowledge, and knowledge leading to Faith will produce Love-The kind of love that will unite us with our Lord Jesus Christ in this life and in the one to come.
Let's pray to God to make himself known to us--provide us with worthy teachers, and leaders, and further let us ask our Lord Jesus Christ to make us love Him as much as we now love sin-when we get to really know Him. If we get to know Him we will automatically love Him.
Dedicated to the Memory of Father Nicholas Elias. By C.Z.