October 1996


The Word of Life, taken from Scripture, is offered each month as a guide and inspiration for daily living.


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mk 12:30)


Perhaps these demanding and all embracing words are so far from the reality of your life that you think they are meant for people of a particular vocation in life, such as those who feel called to dedicate themselves totally to God.

But this is not true. These words are to be found at the beginning of the Law (cf Deut 6:5) which God gave to the Jewish people. Jesus used these words to answer a scribe - an expert in matters of the Law - who asked him which is the first and greatest commandment.

They are words, then, which apply to everyone without distinction, and, therefore, to you, too.


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength"


In using the word "heart," Jesus didn't mean what we commonly understand by that word today. He used it in the biblical sense, whereby it expresses the deepest reality of the human person. To "love God with all one's heart" means to direct one's whole being and actions toward God in an outpouring of love.

The expression, "you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart," would, therefore, have been sufficient. But, in order to make it even clearer, the Gospel adds "with all your soul," which implies one's life; "with all your mind," which includes one's thoughts and intelligence; and , finally, "with all your strength," which encompasses all of one's energies. The purpose of these words is not so much to focus on the different human faculties, as to insist on the only thing which is important: to love God with one's whole being.


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength"


In the Bible, love for God is never considered a mere feeling, or an abstract reality. Rather, to love God means to listen to the Lord and to put into practice his words, which are an invitation to serve him and one's neighbors.

Thus in answering the scribe, Jesus goes on to say that the second commandment is love of neighbor. In these two all the other commandments are summarized.

Love for God, then, does not separate us from the world, nor does it isolate us in personal devotion. On the contrary, it is the enduring source and stimulus which prompts us to love everyone without exception. It is, therefore, the only thing which guarantees the creation of a society wherein every human being will be truly respected. Since God is the Father of us all, and we are brothers and sisters, he himself is the foundation of human equality and of each person's human dignity.

Take this foundation away, and prejudices take hold. In one way or another the dignity of the human person is trampled underfoot; hatred and divisions arise in those who have power and in those who are powerless, in the rich and the poor, in people of different races, in men and women, and so on.


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength"


With all one's heart, all one's soul, all one's mind, all one's strength... Such love seems to exclude all others. But if you love God, you will love your relatives, too, because this is what God wants of you. If you love God, you will love your friends and colleagues because they are the neighbors God has put next to you. If you love God, you will love your profession, your work, because it is the way prepared for you by his love. If you love God, you will love your studies because you will want to prepare yourself for that plan God has for your life; if you love God, you will love sports or diversions because you know that God wants you to take care of your health.

Only if you love in this way, will your heart be undivided an your love wholehearted.


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength"


If God must be loved with all of one's heart, he should have first place in your life. Does he? Is God your reason for living? Is God in the deepest part of your being? Is God the source of your consolation? Is God your most intimate friend?


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength"


Those who love God give witness to this love, and it can be easily seen in their lives. Such was the experience of a Swiss college student, hitchhiking through Europe, whose travels led her to Assisi, to a Christian gathering. Of her own family life, she could remember nothing but incomprehension, arguments, and insults. Once, in exasperation, she had even struck her own mother. Her only refuge had been the quiet of her room, or when she would leave her house.

The gentle inner voice which would sometimes invite her to pray had been quickly suffocated by her rebellious spirit and the atheistic ideas she was assimilating. Finally,she had completely rejected God.

She had thought she would concentrate on "enjoying life," taking advantage of her friends. She had tried drugs, but they had not helped to fill the emptiness in her life.

And now, in Assisi, she had come across these people who seemed to be so different. She asked herself why their expressions were so engaging, their appearance so harmonious, what could be the source of that sense of peace she began to feel. Then she discovered their secret: they loved God, they had chosen him as the ideal of their lives.

She felt the mercy of God enveloping her, giving her new hope: yes, it was possible even for her to love God. and now she was willing to risk everything for him.

Since then everything has changed, beginning with the relationship with her family. After many years she wrote them a letter of reconciliation because she understood that the love of God called for this. As for her friends, she decided to love each one of them with a new, pure heart, for God.

And so these words are now a reality in her life:


"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength"


Chiara Lubich