Jakarta, 31 October 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
THE GREAT COMMANDMENT IN THE LAW
(A biblical reflection on the 30th ORDINARY SUNDAY [YEAR A], 29 October 2017)
Gospel Reading: Matthew 22:34-40
First Reading: Exodus 22:21-27; Psalms: Psalm 18:2-4,47,51; Second Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:5-10
The Scripture Text
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, to test Him. “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?” And He said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these commandments depend all the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 22:34-40 RSV)
In today’s Gospel, the lawyer who asks Jesus the question about the greatest commandment is from a group of religiously strict Jews known as the Pharisees. Members of this group believed in angels and life after death but we know them best for their observance of what they called the oral traditions.
Because the Jews believed the laws in sacred Scripture were a blueprint to holiness, anyone who obeyed the laws was holy. Anyone who did not obey them, even if they did not know what the laws were, was a sinner. Therefore, the Pharisees tried to avoid accidentally breaking the laws by protecting them with more laws. These man-made laws, known as the oral traditions because they were originally passed on verbally, encircled the biblical laws like a fence, preventing a person from even coming close to breaking one of them. The Pharisees believed the oral traditions were just as important as the laws in sacred Scriptures.
Of the 613 oral traditions, 248 were positive (“You shall …”) and 365 were negative (“You shall not …”). Depending on what they pertained to, some of these laws were light and others were heavy. The lawyer in today’s Gospel asks Jesus which of the laws was the heaviest or most important. Jesus response is a combination of two verses – one from Deuteronomy and the other from Leviticus.
The verse from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 about loving God with our whole heart, soul dan mind means we should not hold back anything when loving God. This verse is the first Scripture passage Jewish boys memorize; many Jews consider it a summary of the entire Jewish law. The pious Jew recites this passage every day when he or she wakes up.
The second verse about loving our neighbor is from Leviticus 19:18. Jesus’ answer is unique because when He says we cannot love God without also loving our neighbor, He makes these two commands equally heavy. Most rabbis, on the other hand, would have argued that loving God was more important.
We find the logic behind Jesus’ teaching spelled out in the first epistle according to John. In 4:20, the author tells us that if we aren’t able to love a brother or sister we can see, we certainly aren’t able to love he God we cannot see. Love of God and love of neighbor go hand in hand.
(Source: Jerome J. Sabatowich, Cycling Through the Gospels – Gospel Commentaries for Cycles A, B, and C, pages 104-105.)
Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit, and breathe on me! Empower me to live the law of love! Apart from You, I am powerless, but with You, I can fulfil the command to love. Make me realize that I cannot love others if I do not love myself first. Open my heart to the passionate love of the Father and help me to come to Him everyday as His child and good disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jakarta, 27 October 2017
A Christian Pilgrim
The name of Simon is placed eleventh in the list of apostles and nothing is known of him except that he was born at Cana and was known as the Zealot.
Jude, also known as Thaddaeus, was the apostle who, at the Last Supper, asked the Lord why He showed Himself only to His disciples and not to the world (John 14:22).
Prayer: Lord God, You taught us to call upon Your name through the preaching of the apostles. At the intercession of Saint Simon and Saint Jude may Your Church continue to grow by an increase in the number of believing nations. We pray this in the most precious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Jakarta, 28 October 2017
A Christian Pilgrim