When we think about law, we don't usually think about love. The two seem to be very separate and sometimes opposing forces. The first motive for our obedience to law is usually fear. Early on we learn that if break the law we get in trouble, and deserve some kind of reprimand from God, from our parents, or from civil authority. And unfortunately, one of the first things we learn about the law is how not to get caught breaking it.
But when Jesus was asked what was the first and greatest of all laws, He said very simply and clearly: Love your God and love your neighbor. For Him, the whole of law is based on these two aspects of love. To put it aother way: law - all law - is, in fact, a matter of love.
The Lord intends that His law should be the model for all human law. Our lawmakers, both in religious and civil matters, are empowered by God to fashion laws with the common good and welfare in mind, laws that will promote order and harmony among all people. In the democratic form of government, that power resides in the people. They elect the men and women who will represent them, enact the laws, and enforce them. The people should certainly hold these elected officials responsible and answerable and remove them if they do not serve the common good.
And the Church, above every institution, should be governed by the law of love. The people, who are the Church, no longer directly choose their priests, their bishops or their pope. But as we rediscover the original and rightful role of the laity in the life of the Church, the process by which persons in the Church are called to the ministry of service and given the power and privilege of governing should be a process that reflects a loving concern for the rights, the well being, the freedom and the happiness of all of its people. And the laws of the Church, at every level, must never be out of touch with the primary law of love.
The whole point of both the Old and New Testaments is not to tell us how sinful we are, how weak we are, or how corrupt we can become... not to remind us of a God of wrath and judgment - but to constantly remind us that God's explosion into our lives happened because He couldn't contain Himself. Every episode of God's relationship with mankind, from the Creation story to the Resurrection narratives, point to this fact. True, we do see moments of His anger, His wrath and His Justice, but these are always tempered with Gentleness, Compassion and Comfort.
We have much to learn in terms of love. So many of today's personal and social problems are rooted in our failure to understand both God as Lover and our duty to love our neighbor as we do ourselves.. We abuse His gifts. We pollute nature. We contaminate our bodies, our minds and our spirits. We pervert and misuse the beauty and the power of our sexuality. We shrivel up, become dry and miserable for lack of love. We freeze to death in spirit despite the blazing sun of God's love that is always shining on us.
And we constantly need to be reminded of just exactly who our neighbors are. Religious observance is not enough, it must have social consquences. The God of Compassion and Jusice must be visible in our lives; otherwise, our religious practices are just empty formalities.
This is the "greatest" commandment that Jesus speaks of in the Scriptures: to love God with one's whole heart, soul and being, and to love our neighbor. To do this, we need to be open to God's love. We need to discard anything that will disguise it, hide it or hinder it. But above all, we need to allow ourselves to be loved by Him. If we can do this, then loving our neighbor might just become a little easier.