God first!

God first 1Many people today are convinced that all that really matters is what one does, a ‘right conduct’, love of our neighbour.  On the other hand, concern for a ‘right belief’ according to the true meaning of Scripture, read within the living tradition of the Church, occupies second place … if it’s not downright alienating.  No longer does union with God have the primacy.  Rather social activism has displaced it, little matter that a supernatural sacramental life has always occupied first place in the life of all the Saints.

God first 2Most of us, I’m sure, have heard many a modernist sermon on Christian action being more important than devotional efforts at union with God.

What did Jesus answer when a lawyer asked Him: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?”  Jesus said: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God 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 thy neighbour as thyself”.

Beautiful words.  The essence of what it is to be a Christian.

God first 4The sermons we hear, however, usually go something like this:  Yes, we should love the Lord our God.  But the Lord our God is a Spirit.  How do we go about loving an invisible Spirit?  We love our neighbour.  That is in fact exactly how we love God: by loving our neighbour.  At best, the sermon puts the two commandments on a par, whereas Jesus actually said that love of God is the greatest commandment. Also, the sermon subtly reverses the order of the two commandments – love your neighbour and thereby love God.  Efforts at seeking union with God are in effect out of the picture entirely and Christianity is reduced to a vague form of ‘feel-good’ humanism.


God first 3We first love God with our whole heart – all of it – and our whole soul and our whole mind.  Only then are we able to practice the second commandment, loving our neighbours and our enemies truly as ourselves.  It is the love of God that is the enabling love, not the other way around!


14 Responses to “God first!”

  1. 1 Cinzia June 24, 2009 at 10:15

    Gabriella – I would need more “Avvisi Parrocchiali” right now as it’s not the best day.

    On a much brighter note: I DID IT!! I found the Church of St Aloysius in Melbourne where the Latin Mass is celebrated. My family and I went last Sunday and it was wonderful. The sad part is that this church is so far from our house that I believe it will be impossible for us to go every week 😦

    Since my husband and 15-year old son came too, I was hoping the Mass would be “spoken” rather than wholly chanted, or at least sung in the Gregorian canto. I think that would have been a better start for them who are both totally unfamiliar with the Latin Mass. Is it always celebrated this way now? Completely chanted, including the readings?

    Anyhow, a promising start I guess 🙂 and I hope the two boys were not totally “put off” – I say this because my husband is not Catholic, but he does come with me which is wonderful … but he has already witnessed in the past the lacklustre modern day Masses which I don’t think have inspired him much at all … so I kind of get this feeling that my attempts at “demonstrating” or proving something to him are all kinda failing ….

    Ciao !! and thanks for another wonderful article. I am now your most fervent fan …. and your blog stays permanently open whenever I am at the PC.

  2. 2 Terra June 24, 2009 at 11:52

    Cinzia – Glad you discovered the Latin Mass!

    Is the Latin Mass always chanted – no, but I believe it is normally at the Sunday 11am Mass at St Aloysius. But I wonder if the 8.30am Mass at Kew might be any easier for you to get to? It is said rather than sung, so may be easier at first.

    You can find more information here:http://latinmassmelbourne.org/

    All the best,


  3. 3 Cinzia June 24, 2009 at 14:04

    Oh thank you SO MUCH Terra !! Yes Kew is a bit closer so that will be my next mission, and I’ll have a look at the website you have indicated – THANKS !!!! …… and …… God’s ways are ever so marvellous!!!

  4. 4 Bill Turner June 24, 2009 at 22:13

    Cinzia, I’m so happy for you 🙂
    I’m sure you’ll find the Latin Mass that suits your family best and I’m sure you’ll slowly grow to love it and it will bring a lot of blessings to all of you. Rest assured.
    We all love the Latin Mass for different reasons. Some people love the sound of Gregorian chant as they worship. Others love the smell of incense, which instantly puts them in a prayerful mood. Some people love the fact that the Latin Mass is virtually identical at every parish where it is celebrated. Others appreciate the periods of silence that make meditative prayer possible. You will soon find out what it is of the Mass of All Times that has captured your heart 🙂

  5. 5 Cinzia June 25, 2009 at 02:02

    Thank you Bill. The Mass of All Times has captured my heart for all of the above reasons, and the fact that it brings back many memories of my childhood days when going to church with the whole family was such a meaningful event.

    I hope you are keeping well and it’s nice to hear from you.
    Best regards and God bless.

  6. 6 Antonella Oliver June 25, 2009 at 08:57

    Gabriella….how do we love God whom we do not see except in our neighbours whom we do see. Look at Mother Theresa.
    By loving our neighbours we love God. WE are his hands and feet and mouth etc to our neighbours in need.
    Yes we have to be obedient to God and listen to His spirit in us not the babble of the world. God’s kingdom in within us…but I am sure that by being loving and compassionate to our neighbours as God is to us and by not being judgemental etc….lets look how Christ lived his life on earth how he healed and loved all people beggars and prostitutes and tax collectors etc…..

    Please clarify how a person loves God if not in our neighbours.

  7. 7 Gabriella June 25, 2009 at 11:12

    Antonella, as I explained in my post, you are reversing the order of the two commandments – you are saying love your neighbour and thereby love God 😉

    The Encyclical ‘Deus Caritas Est’ is very clear on this. The Pope places charity in the light of Revelation, in the light of the fact that God manifested himself as love. Therefore, even charitable activity is to be referred to this source. Love for one’s neighbour is the fruit, the direct consequence of divine love.

    It’s true that dedication to another, a spirit of service, kindness toward those in suffering are not at all an exclusively Christian prerogative. They depend on the human heart that God has made compassionate. But If Christianity is reduced to this human dedication, it is understandable how many would no longer see what distinguishes a good Christian from everyone else. In reality what characterizes Christian charity is not a greater or lesser spirit of dedication but a new DEPTH. It makes us love in a neighbour that which Christ willed to have realized in him – adherence to his divine vocation, assistance in bringing it to fulfilment. This situates it on the level of salvation. It is very evident, then, that this kind of charity cannot exist without love of God FIRST. Christianity cannot be reduced to a form of social service, a vague philantropy.

    Love of God comes first, as Christ commands us. Yes, Christ did not refuse to give bread to the famished multitude and to restore health to the sick. Always, however, when He did this, He gave at the same time the reminder that it was not for this that He had come and that “the true bread is that which comes down from heaven”.

    As Mother Teresa always said: “Anyone can take care of a leper, only a Christian who loves God with all his heart and fills the days with prayer can give a leper a hug and a kiss”

    1 Corinthians, 13 is clear (and very thought provoking nowadays): “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not Love for my Saviour, it profiteth me nothing. If I sell all my possessions in order to feed others, and give my body to be burned (offer to sacrifice everything), but have not the Love of God, it does not benefit me at all”.

  8. 8 Antonella Oliver June 25, 2009 at 12:11

    Gabriella by Love of God do you mean…..
    one who goes to church
    one who received the Sacraments
    one who prays

    because loving people who have Christ in them as the Kingdom of God is within and we are all made in His image is like loving God……

    I struggle otherwise with Loving God with all my heart soul and body……..He is Spirit

  9. 9 Kaede Sachi June 25, 2009 at 12:27

    For me, a Christian, my order is:
    1. Love – God is love. Our focus should be on Him first.
    2. Faith – Without faith you cannot experience the fullness of God’s love.
    3. Charity – Faith without works is dead.
    4. Hope – All things combined, our charity can bring hope to others. And what goes around comes around.
    Love this blog 🙂

  10. 10 Cinzia June 25, 2009 at 13:46

    Antonella – Permit me to add my bit if you don’t mind:
    I don’t think Gabriella could have been any more comprehensive and clear in her response to your initial comment. She has quoted the Scriptures, Christ’s teachings, Mother Teresa’s lifetime example of loving God wholly (mind, body and soul) and because of that love, the consequential love, compassion and charity towards the most needy of her “neighbours.”

    The message is clear (from Christ himself!) and the verses from Corinthians couldn’t be clearer either … don’t forget Gabriella is only reminding us of God’s word, not inventing something new or re-interpreting things her way.

    I guess we love God the best way we personally and individually know how to, can and/or want to … it’s not a matter of a) by going to Church; b) by prayer or c) etc … I mean it could be all three, and more.

    I believe that we love God when we live a life of love, charity, forgiveness and compassion towards our fellow human beings in the everyday life and as much as we can in our different and individual lives and circumstances… not necessarily to the extent that Mother Teresa did (those kinds of saints are few and far between), but nevertheless what I’m saying is that the way we conduct ourselves in life towards our neighbours is because of, and manifests itself through our conscious and sub-conscious love for God.
    (now that’s a very very long sentence ….) hope it makes some sense, ’cause i ain’t nowhere near able to express my thoughts and put “pen to paper” not even a fraction as superbly as Gabriella does, and indeed as many of the commentators on this site … I usually prefer to do the listening. 🙂

    Anyway, this is my humble thought for the day. Cheers.

  11. 11 Antonella Oliver June 26, 2009 at 08:40

    Thank you Kaede and Cinzia and Gabriella

    I know that Gabriella is quoting scripture and not her own words….but yes I understand NOW that it is through faith and love of God (who first loved us) and by responding to that love that we are able to do unto others and love others etc etc.

    Love reading this Blog too……good spiritual insight and food for the day.

    p.s how do we get those smiley faces ????

  12. 12 Gabriella June 26, 2009 at 09:03

    Well, Cinzia couldn’t have put it in better words 🙂
    If it helps, I can add that Christ left us His Church, not invisible. The Church is His Mystical Body, his Bride, and we share in this mystical union as believers and transcend belief and partake of the Truth as we are united to our Lord who alone in the truth.
    This is part of the sacred deposit of faith that we possess as Catholics … and we should nurture this love with prayer, reflection and contemplation … the Church is our guard and our defense against new modern and tempting doctrines that may tend to lead us astray, away from the Truth of Christ … the Truth which IS Christ and His Church … One, Holy, Apostolic and Catholic.
    Following the teachings of the Church is one way of growing in the love of our Lord, another way which I find helpful is reading the writings of the Saints (St. Gemma Galgani, St. Teresa the little flower, St. Bernard, etc.) full of immeasurable love of God.
    Another great read is the encyclical ‘Veritatis Splendor’ 🙂
    Ciao and thank you.

    ps: Antonella, you just type in a colon and a bracket wherever you wish to insert a ‘smiley face’

  13. 13 Matthew Perri August 13, 2014 at 05:51

    Which is the most important?
    Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:

    “One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
    ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    …an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
    “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote:
    “He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
    .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
    .2) second, love people.
    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.

    This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)

    In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]

    Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”

    Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”

    The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
    “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
    Not one. TWO.

    Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.

    Here are answers to 2 common objections:
    .a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
    Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.

    .b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
    Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.

    Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.

    The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

  1. 1 The advantage of being on holiday … « Churchmouse Campanologist Trackback on June 30, 2009 at 03:58

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