The answers may be different: family, work, money, health, education, etc. Indeed, all of the above is of great value, but it turns into nothing if one’s heart lacks the most important thing: love. Without this holy feeling not only everything loses its value, but also the life loses its meaning. Love is something that blesses our life and makes it meaningful; something that inspires success, gives the strength to overcome obstacles. That is what the Holy Gospel is telling us now.
When the lawyer, who knew the Law of Moses well, asked Christ, testing Him, “Which is the great commandment in the law?”, Jesus said to him, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:36-40).
Perhaps, most of the spiritual and secular literature is devoted to the disclosure of this great feeling. Love can be different: not only life-giving, but also aggressive: it happens when love is mixed with anger and jealousy; destructive: when someone loves another man’s wife or vice versa; selfish: when we love ourselves the most and we have little love for others. Some people do not believe in this feeling at all, because they were once beaten down by life.
The lawyer, having heard the substantive answer, was silent and ceased to test Christ, and we, sinners, wonder: how does one learn such love?
Saint John Climacus says that to speak of love is like to speak of God, since according to Saint John the Evangelist, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Therefore, to learn to truly love, one needs to get closer to God and connect to Him. For this we pray, purify our soul and body from sins, and receive Holy Communion.
Love blossoms, when we diligently follow God’s commandments, and disappears, when we sin and do not repent of it. “The more sins there are, the less love there is”, – teaches Saint Theophan the Recluse.
So, what destroys love or turns it into a pathetic fake?
First, there are sins of pride and vanity, when we are proud of our achievements or things. However, we are not only proud, but we also encourage others in various ways to praise and compliment us. When pride fills the heart, there is no room for true love. Check yourself very carefully before every confession: what am I boasting about? Sincerely repent of it.
Second, there are laziness and boredom, which develop when obstacles arise on the way of life. Instead of turning to God with prayer and overcoming them with the help of God’s grace, we give up.
Third, there are anger and greed for money. These sins prompt us to deceive acquaintances, who we no longer appreciate. The main thing is to earn as much money as possible. It is the money matters that are now becoming the reason for most families’ breakdown or for fear of starting their own family.
The sins of debauchery and alcoholism are the last thing that makes us incapable of truly loving God and our neighbor as ourselves. It all starts small. For company’s sake someone has a drink, smokes a cigarette, or watches a unchaste movie. Later, they begin to like it, a person enjoys it and gradually turns into a spiritual cripple, who is absolutely unable to fill their heart with love. Instead, they only seek pleasure for one night or even lose their head and surrender to unnatural passions.
Now, we see, how rapidly technology develops and how quickly love disappears at the same time. It has come to the point that anger and discord between neighboring peoples are proclaimed to be a norm. This is now paraded, people thrive on it.
If we are true Christians and do not simply call ourselves as such, we should resolutely fight any manifestation of sin in us without justifying ourselves by the fact that everyone else does so. If we do not put a block to a sin and do not help others to do it, those remnants of love, which some devotees of virtue have and thanks to which the time of apocalypse is postponed, will be quickly destroyed.
Translated by Julia Frolova