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Friends, in today’s Gospel, some Pharisees challenge Jesus to answer which commandment of the Law is the greatest. Jesus responds that every power, every capacity in us must be given over to the love of God. But what exactly does it mean to love God? 

St. Bernard of Clairvaux is helpful here. He said that the goal of the spiritual life is to love God alone, for the sake of God alone. Obviously, there are many things that compete for the love of God alone—money, sex, power, pleasure. But what Bernard saw is that even if God alone is the center of my life, I still might not be truly loving him for his sake alone. I might be using him.

He makes a helpful little distinction. He says that a slave has a kind of love for his master, but it is not truly love, for it is much more like fear. This can be very helpfully applied to the spiritual life. Many people who claim they love God really fear him. What might he do to me? If I don’t do the right things, I will be punished. Such attitudes are a long way from love.