For this Sunday’s readings click on the link below or copy and paste it into your browser.
Our Gospel this Sunday is very familiar. For this reason it would be easy not to give it a lot of thought or attention. It is such an important Gospel, though, that I would hope we would take a few moments to really listen to it so that we can realize anew its important message.
As this Gospel opens we are told that “one of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him. “Which is the first of all the commandments?’” Now this would not have been an unusual question. At the time of Jesus there were over 600 commands, precepts, and prohibitions in the Jewish law. Rabbis were often asked about the relative importance of these various commands. What is unusual is Jesus’ answer. Jesus does not give just one commandment: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all you soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” but two: “The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” At this point, we are told that the scribe who originally approached Jesus told him these two commandments are “worth more than all burnt offering and sacrifices.” Jesus then said to him: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
Now certainly both of these commandments had always been part of the Jewish religion. What was unique in this instance is that Jesus yoked them together. In essence he was reminding people we can’t love the God we do not see, if we don’t love the neighbor we do see.
Our first reading this Sunday from the Book of Deuteronomy, provides the background for the Gospel. In that reading Moses told the people: “Hear O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heat, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Our second reading this Sunday is again taken from the Letter to the Hebrews. It contrasts Jesus, our high priest, with the priests of the Old Testament: “He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; He did that once for all when he offered himself.”
Questions for Reflection/Discussion:
- It is easy to say we love God, but how do we know when we really love God?
- Why is it so much easier to love the God we cannot see, then to love the neighbor we do see?
- I love the image of Jesus offering himself for us. How would you explain this concept to someone who doesn’t come from a Christian background?