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Promoting the Love of God
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Every year we hear Scriptures on the love of God and neighbor proclaimed at some point in the liturgical cycle, and it seems that every homily or sermon I have ever heard in response has given short shrift to the first great commandment. The emphasis is usually on loving one's neighbor as the means by which we show our love for God, but that is not what Jesus teaches nor what the great Hebrew shema from Deuteronomy commands. Of course we are to love our neighbor, but notice that in the teaching by Jesus in Matthew's Gospel, it is the second commandment that is like the first, and not vice versa. Love of neighbor is like our love of God. If we do not love God with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, then it not likely that we will be able to love our neighbor as ourself.

The first great commandment is to be just that: the greatest love and priority of our life. Whatever takes its place is an idol of some kind, whether it be career success, money, power, or even humanitarian service. If life is to be lived as God intended, we need to keep first things first. Notice, however, that this commandment speaks of the love of God, which is a wondrous thing indeed! God is to be loved and not simply believed in or obeyed, much less understood. Implied in the first great commandment, then, is a relational dynamic between human beings and God -- that God wants to be in loving relationship with us. This God is no impersonal force that we have to learn to be in alignment with, as some spiritualities today emphasize. God is loving and relational Other, who can be loved with one's whole heart, soul, mind and strength. When we love God so fully, we come to know the deepest peace and the greatest joy that human beings can know, and we cannot help but love our neighbor as we ought. Such is the witness of the great Saints and mystics of the ages.

But how would we love God? We do not do very well loving human beings whom we can see, much less the God we cannot see.

Learning to love God above all -- to keep the first great commandment -- shall be the exclusive concern of this web site. There are many other resources on Christian theology and spirituality, including my own shalomplace.com, but, to my knowledge, there are very few dedicated to the love of God. We will share quotes, experiences, prayer methods and other means to encourage and support the love of God, including material from non-Christian religions. The links in the right sidebar can help you to navigate your way around.

May we help one another to grow in the love of God.

Philip St. Romain
November 3, 2011

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