Sunday Readings: Deuteronomy 6.2-6; Hebrews 7.23-28; Mark 12.28-34
A scribe asked Jesus, “What is the greatest of all the commandments?” Jesus answered, “The greatest of all the commandments is ‘Hear, O Israel! The Holy One your God is God alone. Therefore, love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ That is the greatest, and the second is, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ No other commandments are greater than these.” – Mark 12.29-31
For Jesus, as for all good Jews, no religious obligation is more sacred than keeping the Law of Moses, the commands of the Torah, all 613 of them as spelled out in the first five books of the Old Testament. The scribe aims to entrap Jesus to pick one of the commands as the greatest and set him up to be soft on all the others.
But Jesus chose wisely. What his life boils down to are words his original audience knew well, the Shema, the daily prayer of Jews. “Hear, O Israel! The Holy One your God is God alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
These words come out of the Hebrew bible. These are the words in the mezuzot Jews have posted on their doorways for centuries. These are the words that ultra-orthodox Jews keep bound to their wrists and foreheads. These are words of love: for God, for neighbor, and for self. The scribe who asks the questions agrees with Jesus’ response. The ultimate purpose for Israel’s faith and their laws is love.
When all is said and done, what really matters to you? How apparent are these values in your life?