One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord 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.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’ And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And when Jesus saw that [he] answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And no one dared to ask him any more questions. – Mk 12:28-34 NASB
The great commandment was at the heart of the yesterday’s Gospel reading. We also heard it during the first reading from Deuteronomy (6:2-6). This declaration of God’s unity and call to love God with all our being and to love neighbor as ourself is still central in Jewish worship today. It is called the “Shema”- Hebrew for “Hear!”- because God has a message for us that will make the difference between life and death.
The scribe who queried Jesus about the greatest commandment agrees with Jesus: to love God and our neighbor whole-heartedly is the path to life in God’s kingdom. But how can we love this way? Most of us are so busy, so distracted, with so much coming at us. How do we even choose our priorities?
Many holy women and men have recommended “falling in love with God.” “Nothing is more practical,” said Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the late Superior General of the Jesuits. Why practical?
Because when we are in love, we know our priorities, we know each day how we will devote our time and talents. And when we are in love, we find time to nourish our relationship. Fr. Pedro said, “Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
What can you and I do this week to strengthen our love for God?
Which one of our neighbors needs more love and attention from us right now? How are we going to reach out to them to ensure that they are loved by us as much as God loves us?
Let us sincerely seek the quiet we need to hear God’s love for us, opening ourselves to love God passionately. All else will follow.
Peace and Blessings.