3rd Friday in Lent
In his Treatise on the Love of God, St Francis de Sales has a comment on the place of love in the general scheme of things. He says, “Man is the most perfect work of creation; the soul is the most perfect part of man; the perfection of the soul is love; and the perfection of love is the love of God, which is therefore the end and perfection of the universe”. That is why, in the Gospel for today, Jesus describes the love of God as the first and the greatest of all the commandments.
The love of God is the purpose for which everything was made, and for which God called Israel and initiated the dialogue which still continues with each of us today. In the first reading, the prophet Hosea compares Israel to a tree: “He shall strike root like the Lebanon cedar, and put forth his shoots. His splendor shall be like the olive tree and his fragrance like the Lebanon cedar”.
If we may extend the comparison, not only Israel, but the love of God is also like a kind of sacred tree: the commandments of God and his inspirations are the flowers of the tree, and eternal life is the fruit of the tree.
And just as there is no midway point between life and death – anything organic is either alive or dead – so anything which does not share in the love of God (which is eternal life) has the taste of eternal death.
The love of God is indeed the greatest of the commandments, since it alone continues in heaven, where the saints shall live eternally, and live only by love.