Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator
The word "commandment," especially as it relates to Scripture, conjures up different things to different people. Those who are schooled in the Torah might speak of the 613 different commandments that are contained in the first five books of the Bible. Those of us who studied the Baltimore Catechism will undoubtedly remembered being drilled in the recitation of the Ten Commandments as they are enumerated in the Book of Exodus. (We won't even get into a discussion that the Book of Deuteronomy has a slightly different list.) Undoubtedly, there are some who would cite the synoptic Gospels which feature Jesus proclaiming the two greatest commandments – love God and love your neighbor.
The writings of St. John, however, consistently speak of two commandments that are different from those cited in any other of the Hebrew or Christian Scriptures; namely, to believe in Jesus Christ and to love one another. The Gospel of St. John presents the lack of faith in Jesus as the most egregious sin. Throughout the Gospel, lack of faith is usually depicted as the epitome of darkness while faith in Jesus is usually accompanied by bright sun light. Compare the conversations Jesus had with Nicodemus in chapter three and that which he had with the Samaritan woman at the well.
The reading that we proclaim on this Monday after the Solemnity of the Epiphany highlights both of St. John's commandments. Those who believe and those who love their brothers and sisters are validated by the Spirit. St. John goes on to say that we must test the Spirit to determine if our obedience is leading us toward or away from God. This, after all, is really the only thing that matters.