“The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Jesus’ words resonate within the scribe’s heart, and he responds, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” (Mark 12:32-24). Jesus sees that the truth has been firmly planted within the soul of the scribe, and He says to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
The passage reveals an important truth to us about the virtue of charity: true love of neighbor flows from true love of God. Jesus tells the scribe that the first commandment is to love God with the entirety of our being. Then we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. The love of God is a prerequisite for love of neighbor and for every charitable action.
How, then, do we love God with the entirety of our being? A quote from Origen provides us with the answer. He says, “If we are able to love God it is because we have been loved.” God has loved us first; and His love, active within us through the indwelling presence of His Holy Spirit, gives us the capacity to love Him in return.