HOW TO GROW IN OUR LOVE OF GOD AND OF NEIGHBOUR? SOME PRACTICAL TIPS.
We all know Jesus’ reply when He was asked which is the first of all the commandments.
Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, 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.”Mk 12: 28ff
The question is: How do I put this very important commandment into effect? What are the practical ways by which I could love God more and my neighbour for love of God? Below are some practical tips which will help you put into practice and consequently grow in your love for God and your neighbour.
1. WHAT DOES LOVING GOD CONSIST IN?
Loving God as his children consists in:
1.1. Choosing him as the ultimate end of all we undertake. We are asked to do everything out of love for him and for his glory:whether you eat or drink, or do anything else, do all for the glory of God(1 Cor10:31). “
- No love can be put higher than love for God. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me( Mt10:37).
- Any love that tries to exclude God or put him in second place is not a true love. We must learn to love other through God’s love.
1.2. Fulfilling God’s will in deeds: Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Mt7:21).
- God’s will is that we be holy (cf. 1 Thess4:3), that we follow Christ (cf. Mt17:5), imitate him, and live as other Christs, by living the virtues he lived and taught and fulfill his commandments (cf. Jn14:21) even if it calls for sacrifice: not my will but thine be done(Lk22:42).
1.3. Love is love repaid. Hence, we are to correspond to his love for us.
- He loved us first; he created us as free beings and has made us his children (cf. 1Jn4:19).
- This requires a daily struggle to reject anything which is against God’s love: in rejecting sin which is refusing God’s love (cf. Catechism, 2094).
- It also requires asking pardon from to God through the Sacrament of Confession when we have gravely offended Him through mortal sin. “
1.4. Loving God leads us to seek a personal relationship with him, a relationship which leads to WORSHIP consisting of prayer, which in turn fosters love, and of sacrifice.
Prayer can take several forms
- Adore God: Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator” (Catechism,2628). It is the most fundamental attitude of religion (cf. Catechism, 2096). You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve(Mt4:10). Adoring God frees us from the various forms of idolatry that lead to slavery. “May your prayer always be a real and sincere act of adoration of God.”
- Thank God: Thanksgiving (cf. Catechism2638), because everything we are and have we have received from him: What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?(1 Cor4:7).
- Ask for his help. Petition: asking for pardon for what separates us from God (sin) and asking for help for ourselves and for others, as well as for the Church and all mankind. These two forms of petition are found in the Our Father: “… give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses.” A Christian’s petition is full of confidence, for in hope were we saved” (Rom8:24), and because it is a filial petition through Christ: if you ask the Father anything in my name, he will give it to you” (Jn16:23; cf. 1 Jn5:14-15).
1.5. Love is inseparable from sacrifice.
- Sacrifice is offering God something that costs us, in homage to him and as an expression of the interior surrender of our own will, that is, of obedience to God. Christ redeemed us through the sacrifice of the Cross, showing his perfect obedience to the point of dying for us (cf. Phil2:8). As Christians, as members of Christ, we can coredeem with him, uniting our sacrifices to his, in Holy Mass (cf. Catechism, 2100).
The worship of God consists of prayer and sacrifice.
- It is called the worship of latria or adoration, to distinguish it from the cult due to the angels and saints, which is the worship of duliaor veneration, and the cult honoring the Blessed Virgin, called hyperdulia(cf. Catechism, 971). The pre-eminent act of worship is Holy Mass, image of the heavenly liturgy. The love of God should be reflected by the dignity of our worship: observing what the Church prescribes, with “the good manners of piety,”  cleanliness and care for liturgical objects. “That woman in the house of Simon the leper in Bethany, who anoints the Master’s head with precious ointment, reminds us of the duty to be generous in the worship of God. All the richness, majesty and beauty seem too little to me.” 
1.6. Loving God supposes rejecting anything which might offend Him. The following are the sins against the love of God
- a) Against faith: atheism, agnosticism, religious indifference, heresy, apostasy, schism, etc. (cf.Catechism2089) It is also contrary to the first commandment to put in danger voluntarily one’s own faith, either through reading books against the faith or morals without a sufficient reason and preparation, or through failing to employ the means required to safeguard one’s faith.
- b) Against hope: despairing of one’s own salvation (cf.Catechism2091) and, at the opposite extreme, presuming that divine mercy will pardon sins without conversion or contrition, or without the necessary sacrament of penance (cf.Catechism2092). It is also against this virtue to put one’s hope for final happiness in anything outside of God.
- c) Against charity: any sin whatsoever goes against charity. Directly contrary to it is the rejection of God, and also lukewarmness—not wanting to love him with all one’s heart. Opposed to the worship of God is sacrilege, simony, certain superstitious practices, magic, etc., and Satanism (cf.Catechism2111-2128).
1.7. Love for God requires loving those God loves.
2. WHAT DOES LOVING OTHERS FOR LOVE OF GOD CONSIST IN?
If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also(1 Jn4: 20-21). We cannot love God without loving all men and women, created by him in his image and likeness, and called to be his children by divine grace (cf.Catechism 2069).
2.1. We have to treat and behave as God’s children to and with all God’s sons and daughters:
- The standard for loving others is Christ’s love. How would Christ treat this person in front of me? A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this will all men will know that you are my disciples(Jn13:34-35). “We must give our life for others. That is the only way to live the life of Jesus Christ and to become one and the same with Him” (St. Josemaria).
2.2. Seeing a child of God, Christ, in others knowing that what we do to them, we are doing it to Christ:
- As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me(Mt25:40). We need to want for others what God wants, their real good: for them to be saints, and so to be happy.
- The first manifestation of charity is apostolate.
- This also includes caring for others’ material needs.
- It means being understanding (“making one’s own”) the spiritual and material needs of others; and being merciful (cf. Mt18:15). Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous … does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful(1 Cor13:4-5).
- It also requires fraternal correction (cf Mt18:15).
- In short: the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.
3. Love of self out of love for God
3.1. If we are to love others as we love ourselves, then, there is a right love for oneself out of love for God.
- This rightly ordered love of self means loving ourselves out of love for God.
- It leads to seeking for ourselves what God wants: holiness and, thereby, happiness (with sacrifice on this earth, with the Cross).
3,2. There is also a disordered love of self, egoism, which is loving ourselves for our own excellence, and not for love of God.
- This means putting our own will before God’s, and our own interests before serving others.
- It is impossible to have a rightly ordered love of self without struggling against selfishness. This involves denying oneself, giving oneself to God and others.
- If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it(Mt16:24-25). Man “cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.” 
Dear brethren in Christ, holiness is nothing other than the fullness of divine filiation and charity (St. Josemaria). The love which God asks of each one of us requires of us is Christ’s love: a total gift, body and soul. It is not a matter of feeling but rather a decision of the will which may or may not be accompanied by our emotions. Through the intercession of Mother Mary and St. Joseph, may we strive daily to grow in our love for God and for others through concrete deeds.
Adapted from A. Ducay, Summary of the First Commandment in opusdei.org
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