What is the greatest commandment?
Today’s Gospel (Mark 12:28-34) follows on from what we have heard the last couple of days and concludes a theme of ‘confrontation’ between the Jewish authorities and Jesus. This time, though, it is more of a questioning by one of the scribes who asks Jesus, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?
The scribe, himself, would have known the answer (that Jesus gave ‘to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength!’) because it comes from Deuteronomy (6:4-5) and, at that time, pious Jews recited this phrase three times a day. The Pharisees even wore tiny scrolls called ‘Tefillin’ that had these words written on them as a reminder of their importance. Jesus goes further and adds, ‘The second one is: You shall love your neighbour as yourself’ (found in Leviticus 19:18).
Together, these two commandments summarise everything Jesus teaches on God and His life.
In reflecting on the Gospel, Tony says, ‘Why ask this question if the answer was known already? Jews, at this time, had many norms to regulate the observance of the Ten Commandments of the Law and the leaders wanted to know which ones were the most important. What was the minimum needed to follow the Law?
Even today, many people want to know what is more important in religion. For some it is baptism; for some it is to go to church; for others it is love of our neighbour or working for a more just world.
With this in mind, Tony asks us to reflect on these questions: What is the first or most important thing in your faith? How would you answer?
Jesus answers it is both a relationship with God and with others.
Lord, fill us with hope and joy of your spirit. Guide us in our prayer and send us out to make a difference to people who are voiceless, powerless and poor. May we serve others by listening to them and honouring their stories. Amen