Read Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking, "Teacher, which... Read More…
Meet Sister Jo Ann Recker
Sister Jo Ann Recker, SNDdeN is a professor emerita of French in the Department of Modern Languages at Xavier University, Cincinnati, OH. Read More…
The Gospel of this Sunday gives us an opportunity to reflect on the greatest commandment. It is first cited in the Old Testament: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your hearts, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deut. 6:4-5). Then, in the New Testament, when Jesus is tested and asked, “Teacher, which commandment in the Law is the greatest,” he repeats the words of Deuteronomy and extends the commandment in his response: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. [Mt. 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28] This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. [Lv. 19:18] The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
By means of the enumeration, of our various faculties, heart, soul, mind, we are being called to a commitment to this “greatest and first commandment” that engages the totality of our being, that is complete, total and unconditional.
What Jesus does by extending his answer to the Pharisees in Matthew and including a “second greatest commandment” is to remind his hearers that to demonstrate our love for the Lord, our God, whom we do not see, we need to demonstrate this love for our neighbor, whom we do see.
In a number of instances, Jesus opens the concept of neighbor: most notably, perhaps, in his parable of response to the direct question, “And who is my neighbor,” (Lk 10:29) he tells the interrogating lawyer the culturally shocking story of the Good Samaritan. He speaks about, as well as manifests in his life, the fact that neighbor also includes one’s enemies, persons to whom a follower needs to extend forgiveness. (Mt. 5:44; Lk 6:26, 35)
Contemporary examples of such love are apparent in those doctors and nurses in Western Africa tending to the needs of people suffering from Ebola as well as the humanitarians offering aid to displaced Syrians, even at the risk of their own lives.
We may not be called to heroic gestures at this time but we might ask ourselves:
- What is God asking me to do now to respond in love with all my being?
- Is there someone who is in need of my forgiveness?
- Do I know a person who requires my healing presence or my listening ear and understanding heart?
- Is there an area of social justice in which I feel impelled to be involved but have not yet taken action?
- What steps can I take to befriend mother earth, the environment and, thereby, ensure the welfare of others who have less than I, and the generations that will follow me?
Our lives, the lives of this and future generations, surely depend on these two commandments.