The two great commandments, to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself, are an excellent way to do an examination of conscience before confession. Aside from all the other possible sins, the failure to keep these two commandments is worthy of serious consideration. The sins of omission are often overlooked, while the sins of commission tend to come to the fore. Most of us fall short of loving God with everything we’ve got, no matter how hard we try. We pray for the grace of humility and a contrite heart to live out this commandment daily with God’s help.
The love of neighbor is equally as hard to accomplish in our own strength. We ask God in the Lord’s prayer to forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive others who trespass against us. Another way of stating this request would be to ask God to forgive us, and through the power of that forgiveness, we can then forgive others. These two actions are joined together in a way that is as close as the vine is to the branch, as depicted in the Last Supper discourse:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine grower. He takes away every branch in me that does not bear fruit, and every one that does he prunes[q]so that it bears more fruit. You are already pruned because of the word that I spoke to you. Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me will be thrown out like a branch and wither; people will gather them and throw them into a fire and they will be burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you. By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (John 15:1-10)
To love your neighbor as yourself can only be accomplished by remaining in God’s love, keeping his commandments, and regarding others as being attached to the one, true life-giving vine that is Jesus.