OCTOBER 31. Ord Time B. Wk 31. Sun. Mk 12. 28-34
One of the scribes came up to Jesus and put a question to him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must 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 must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.’ The scribe said to him, ‘Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true: that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any holocaust or sacrifice.’ Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ And after that no one dared to question him anymore.
It would be hard to determine the most important teaching given by Christ while he lived among us, but his answer to the question asked by a scribe in today’s reading, would have to be in contention; - “What is the first of all the commandments?”
What is interesting in his answer is it is the first of the ten commandments spoken to Moses on the mountain many centuries earlier; - “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me!”
And Christ’s answer was almost identical; - “The Lord your God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength!”
We need to understand this first commandment is a commandment of the heart! While ‘Thou shalt not kill!’ is a negative teaching preventing us doing evil; - the first commandment tells us to “love” God before all else; - making it is the most important of his teachings!
It directly addresses our desires and what we want from life, and so has practical implications for how we live our lives. Many of us begin each day hoping our desires will be satisfied and we will have no difficulties; - but such sentiments are not in accord with this teaching!
This first commandment puts God at the centre of our lives, and asks us to put his will before our own; - a commandment demanding generosity and self-sacrifice be given precedence over our own desires and wishes!
But note how Christ adds a new word to this first commandment; - namely Love!
He does this because “love” is the only motivation which enables us to put the wishes of God before our own; - and to sacrifice our own desires and wishes in order to “love” another!
And, as if to highlight the central role of love, Christ then expands the first commandment of Moses, telling us we must not only “love” God; - we must also love our neighbour, and he does this by introducing the second commandment; - to love God “and” Neighbour!
And in giving us this new commandment of Love, Christ is also revealing his own heart and motivation for being among us; - for giving us his teachings; - for wanting to convert sinners; - and for sacrificing his own life on a Cross; - he wants to bear witness to God’s love for all his people; - especially sinners and those who are disadvantaged or rejected by society!
Gospel Acclamation John 14:23
All who love me will keep my words,
and my Father will love them, and we will come to them.
First reading Deuteronomy 6:2-6
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart
Moses said to the people: ‘If you fear the Lord your God all the days of your life and if you keep all his laws and commandments which I lay on you, you will have a long life, you and your son and your grandson. Listen then, Israel, keep and observe what will make you prosper and give you great increase, as the Lord the God of your fathers has promised you, giving you a land where milk and honey flow.
‘Listen, Israel: the Lord our God is the one Lord. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. Let these words I urge on you today be written on your heart.’