Saturday, December 14, 2013

Quick, "what is the greatest commandment"?

Jeff has spotted a good one.

"A very common error in contemporary Catholic preaching – and indeed in what passes for catechesis throughout much of the Church today – is the reduction of the Gospel to “love one another” as though this were the highest commandment of God, or even more strangely, the 'Good News' itself. It’s a perfectly understandable mistake in light of the stark anthropocentric direction of the Second Vatican Council. If you regularly attend the Novus Ordo Mass, chances are you have heard this error in one form or another hundreds of times."

“Evangelii Gaudium” (par 161):
“Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12).”

Let's just take a quick peek at the ol' cheat sheet, shall we?

Google search: "what is the greatest commandment"

Matthew 22:36-40

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

36 Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?

37 Jesus said to him: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.

38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.

39 And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

40 On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.

Now, Google: "John 15:12"

Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)

12 This is my commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.

These two passages are obviously related, but the expression "greatest commandment" is actually in scripture and was not applied to the verse Francis quoted above. And the verse it is applied to, again in scripture, was quite clear. The "greatest commandment" is about God, about loving Him, which we know means obeying Him ("If you love me, keep my commandments...").

Now, I'm no theology or exegesis expert, but as I understand it, the charism of the papacy does not include the power of correcting the Son of God or of re-writing Scripture.



Jeff Culbreath said...

Thanks for linking to this, Hilary. Unfortunately this isn't the only misapplication of Scripture in EG by any means. It's really astonishing that a pope would be that unfamiliar with the most universally understood passages of Scripture ... and would simultaneously be unaware of his own need for a theologically literate editor! Do they even exist in Rome today? One's Catholic heart breaks.

Anonymous said...

Modernism in a nutshell: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God as thyself." The old switcheroo, truth transmuted into sentimentality.

Gary Johannes

Robert said...

Could it not be argued that:

- since the passage from Matthew refers to the old law, and occurs chronologically before the passage from John pertaining to the New Law, which fulfills and surpasses the old;

- and since according to St. Thomas Aquinas within this new kind of love for one another (loving one another as Christ loved us) love of God is included;

- the new commandment thus includes and fulfils both the first and second great commandments of the old law;

- and therefore the new commandment can rightly be called "the first and the greatest of the commandments" without contradicting what our Lord said in the passage from Matthew?

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

This week's Orwell's Picnic Pretzel Prize goes to Robert in the category of "Most desperate mental contortions to make Francis sound orthodox".

BillyHW said...

Isn't it the opposite of humility to think you know better than the Son of God?

Anyhoo, it's clear that Pope Francis is an intellectual lightweight. Couldn't he just go hug people for the next 10 years and shut the hell up?

Santiago said...

Actually, Pope Benedict wrote about the intimate link between love of God and love of neighbor in the opening section of Deus Caritas Est, an encyclical which I recall was more or less summarily dismissed by this blogger.

"In a world where the name of God is sometimes associated with vengeance or even a duty of hatred and violence, this message is both timely and significant. For this reason, I wish in my first Encyclical to speak of the love which God lavishes upon us and which we in turn must share with others. That, in essence, is what the two main parts of this Letter are about, and they are profoundly interconnected. The first part is more speculative, since I wanted here—at the beginning of my Pontificate—to clarify some essential facts concerning the love which God mysteriously and gratuitously offers to man, together with the intrinsic link between that Love and the reality of human love."

What a softie confused liberal that Ratzinger is...

DP said...

That quote from Benedict XVI is an excellent one.

It doesn't remotely retrieve Pope Francis' error, but it's superb.

Santiago said...

Same source

Here we see the necessary interplay between love of God and love of neighbour which the First Letter of John speaks of with such insistence. If I have no contact whatsoever with God in my life, then I cannot see in the other anything more than the other, and I am incapable of seeing in him the image of God. But if in my life I fail completely to heed others, solely out of a desire to be “devout” and to perform my “religious duties”, then my relationship with God will also grow arid. It becomes merely “proper”, but loveless. Only my readiness to encounter my neighbour and to show him love makes me sensitive to God as well. Only if I serve my neighbour can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me. The saints—consider the example of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta—constantly renewed their capacity for love of neighbour from their encounter with the Eucharistic Lord, and conversely this encounter acquired its real- ism and depth in their service to others. Love of God and love of neighbour are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first. No longer is it a question, then, of a “commandment” imposed from without and calling for the impossible, but rather of a freely-bestowed experience of love from within, a love which by its very nature must then be shared with others. Love grows through love. Love is “divine” because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a “we” which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28).

Santiago said...

Or, more simply out (again, same source(:

Jesus united into a single precept this commandment of love for God and the commandment of love for neighbour found in the Book of Leviticus: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (19:18; cf. Mk 12:29-31). Since God has first loved us (cf. 1 Jn 4:10), love is now no longer a mere “command”; it is the response to the gift of love with which God draws near to us.

Santiago said...

Jesus unites both commandments into one. Thus, this two-fold commandment is the greatest. That is also what Pope Francis is saying. Why nit pick?

Anonymous said...

It's not a nit-pick. The two great commandments both need to be followed, in the order stipulated by Our Lord.

There will always be two temptations: (1) to exalt the first commandment at the expense of the second, which would result in correct but sterile liturgy and neglect of our neighbor; and (2) to exalt the second commandment over the first, which would result in a soup-kitchen mentality and functional atheism. Keeping each commandment in its proper place is much more difficult, but it's the only way to be in harmony with God's will.

However well-intentioned, the Holy Father's startling misapplication of "first and greatest" to John 15:12 points directly to the second temptation.