A New Command
Readings: Hos 14:2-10; Mk 12:28-34
"'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart... .'
'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'" Mk 12:30-31
As Christians, we know love of God should go hand-in-hand with love of neighbor. But imagine that you are a Jew who is present at today's Gospel account.
A scribe has just asked this rabbi named Jesus, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" It seems to be an honest question from a good man, so Jesus answers him directly. "'You shall the love the Lord your God with all your heart ... .'" You know that He's quoting the opening lines of the Shema (see Deut 6:4) — the creed which every observant Jew recites morning and evening. But, then, Jesus says something unusual. He joins the Shema to the command in Leviticus to love your neighbor as yourself (see Lev 19:18).
You notice something else. While the scribe had asked Jesus to name only the first commandment, He has responded by naming these two commandments as one new command. This rabbi is the first one to bring together these two commandments.
Is He saying that the one flows directly and necessarily from the other? Yes, our love of neighbor arises out of our love for God and vice versa. Jesus has taken these two precepts of the law and welded them into one new commandment of love. How extraordinary!
You also find the scribe's reply to Jesus' answer intriguing. He agrees fully with Jesus' answer and even adds that true love of God and of one's neighbor is more important than all the ritual laws of the Temple itself — "all burnt offerings and sacrifices" (Mk 12:33). You wonder what the Chief Priests and the Levites will think of that.
Then Jesus looks at the scribe and answers, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" (Mk 12:34). And nobody dares to ask this rabbi another question.
You are in awe and ponder how to put this new teaching into practice.
Teacher of my soul, show me how to love You with all of my being and
help me to love my neighbor as myself. Teach me to love like You do.
1 John 4:20-21
Diary of St. Faustina
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