“He who loves his neighbour has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8)
Saint John Chrysostom says that this debt – to love our neighbour – is one which we are always to be paying, and yet always remains and is to be paid again and again and again. Since we are to “love our neighbour as our self” this law is the fulfilment of Law. For we love our neighbour, if we are doing it the way God wants us to, for God’s sake alone. This Law – Law that rules all Laws of both the Church and the world (Sacred and Profane) – is the Law that perfectly complements the “First and Great Commandment” revealed and taught to us by Our Lord in Saint Matthew’s Gospel chapter 22; upon it He says “hangs all the Law and the Prophets” (22:40).
This supreme LAW is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (22:37). The sole purpose of this LAW revealed to us by God not only in the Sacred Scriptures and Traditions of the Church, but also through the Natural Law, is for the salvation of souls. We are to love God with everything we’ve got, because that’s the only way for us to be saved from eternal judgment.
To love God perfectly is to offer to Him not only what is convenient for us but, most especially, that which is inconvenient for us to give Him. “For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14). God knows our hearts, He knows us better than we know ourselves. If we attempt to reserve something from Him – our talents, pet sins, money, time, anything – God knows instantaneously, we don’t even have to tell Him. It grieves Him that we would try to deceive Him because we, in truth, can’t deceive Him. Our reservations towards God only hurt our selves and keep us from enjoying perfect communion with Him. In the confessional, we don’t surprise God with anything. Not because He’s heard it all before, but because He was there when we sinned – He saw and heard it all and He has a perfect memory.
What then will our offering all up to God without reservation gain for us? Saint Paul gives us the best answer, he says that: “The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work” (2 Cor. 9:6-8).
In other words, we get what we give: give little, get little; give nothing, get nothing. But if we give all, in imitation of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ giving of all on the Cross as a ransom for all mankind, then God will give to us, “Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over… The measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Lk 6:38).
Even the formal Code of Canon Law for the Catholic Church stands upon the principle that salvation of souls is paramount. It states in Canon 1752 that “the supreme Law of the Church is the salvation of souls” and this Law “is always to be kept before our eyes.” The Code of Canon Law is not intended to crush us or force us into conformity; it is a template for how we are to “love our neighbour as ourselves.”
Saint Benedict of Nursia wrote extensively about this supreme LAW in his Rule. In it, he lays out eleven principles of humility and in conclusion to these principles he wrote to his monks that: “Once [you have] climbed all these steps of humility, [you] will arrive at the love of God, which being perfect casts out fear. Thanks to this love, every rule that [you] previously kept out of fear, [you] will now begin to keep without any effort, naturally, by force of habit, no longer from the fear of hell but for the love of Christ, from the habit of good and the pleasure of virtue.”
Perfect love of God – with no reservations on our part; knowing that there are, of course, never any reservations on God’s part – will cast out all our fear; and our hearts will be able to speak plainly and completely to God. “Cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaks to heart) was Blessed John Henry Newman’s motto. It can be ours too. Let your heart speak to God. Let your heart speak to your neighbor.
Many of us are afraid to love our neighbour as we love ourselves, because we are afraid of rejection – afraid of not getting a return on our gift-of-self to the other. This is not the proper perspective for us to have. We love our neighbour, our friend, our spouse, our child our pope, our priest, our leaders and even our enemies not for our own sake or even for their sake; but for God’s sake alone. We love them through God – we love Him first and because of this we can love all of His creation. This is a divine mystery and it is something in which we are privileged to participate. It is expressed clearly and succinctly at the culmination of the Canon at Mass when God, who is Love, offers Himself – without reservation – for us. It is expressed through these words which the priest says just before the “Great Amen.” In Latin, the priest says: “Per quem hæc omnia, Dómine, semper bona creas, santíficas, vivíficas, benedícis, et præstas nobis.” Which in English is translated: “Through whom, O Lord, thou dost ever create all these good things; dost sanctify, quicken, bless, and bestow them upon us.”
“Cor ad cor loquitur” (heart speaks to heart) is the Law that rules us. It is a debt that never goes away; we are always paying it and, in Christ, we pay it again and again and again to the eternal joy of our heart. God is calling each of us to a closer walk with Him: a thing which is only possible thru fulfilling this law to love our neighbour.