AUGUST 20. Ord Time B. Wk 20 Fri. Mt.22. 34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’
It is made clear at the start of today’s Gospel the Pharisees motivation in asking Christ to tell them greatest commandment of the law was in order to outsmart him as crowds had started to be impressed by his teachings.
But Christ welcomed this question as it went to the heart of why he was on earth; - to teach his people what God wanted of them; - so he gave them a very clear and concise reply; - “To Love God and Love your neighbour!”
This could be called the centrepiece of both Christ’s life and the Gospels, as Love was the motivation for everything God has done for his people; - and now he is telling them that they too had to Love!
This would have been very confronting to the Pharisee’s as, in in their eyes the keeping of the many laws they had created was what mattered - and it was their responsibility to teach and preserve those laws.
What Christ was doing with this new teaching was undermining the legality of the Pharisee’s laws as he was giving first place to love of God and neighbour; - thus superseding obedience to the laws they had created.
And here we begin to see the problem Christ was creating for these Law makers; - he was creating a “new law” that involved putting his own divine teachings before the teachings the Pharisee’s were advocating.
But he also claimed his teachings of Love were supported by the Prophets of old; - which they were; - as the words he used in giving this new law of love were identical to those used by Moses, the greatest of the prophets; - who had revealed the ten commandments after he had spoken with God.
The words of Moses had been; - “Hear, O Israel; - the Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and all your might,” the same teaching Christ gave in today’s Gospel.
However Christ, on his own authority, expanded the law of love given by Moses when he added a second commandment; - to love your neighbour. In doing this he was making it clear he was passing on a new, divine commandment; - “On these TWO commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also!”
It is little wonder the Pharisees did not take kindly to Christ issuing this new commandment as in doing so he was claiming to be God. In addition, the people were beginning to acknowledge his divinity; - so the only way they could resolve this issue would be to have him killed!
Gospel Acclamation Ps24:4,5
Teach me your paths, my God,
and lead me in your truth.