The Law and the Gospel (Kerygma)
“‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ Jesus responded, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.’ ”
Last week, I wrote that the heart of the Gospel “is not primarily about words or doctrines or laws or structures or systems. The Gospel is about a person.” Our reading from Matthew’s Gospel this week clearly makes this same point.
When asked by a scholar of the law about the greatest commandment, Jesus does not point to any particular behavior that is commanded, but rather to a person’s relationship with God. Rather than behavioral compliance, Jesus roots greatness in a personal loving bond with God. This bond affects the person at every level (heart, mind, soul, strength). Jesus interprets the law in the context of love.
What does this mean for us?
It means that everything we do needs to be rooted in an ongoing encounter with our loving God. This is the Gospel. It is personal. It affects every level of our being. It changes our behavior, not because of our own willpower, but because of the grace of God given to us in Jesus. We do not initiate this relationship. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10). We are called to respond to this invitation to a new way of life.
St. Augustine famously said, “Love God, and do what you will.” As we respond to the loving invitation of God to new life, we are transformed and our actions become more loving. The law can show us what love looks like, but it cannot change our hearts. Only the Gospel, a loving encounter with Jesus, has the power to change our hearts.
Today, right now, take a moment to invite Jesus into your heart and into your life. Give Him permission to affect you at every level and change the way you think, feel, and act. Say “yes” to the Gospel and live a life of love!
Parish Pastoral Leader