Friday, March 9, 2018
Season of Lent
1) Opening prayer
God, we do not want to die;
we want to live.
We want to be happy
but without paying the price.
We belong to our times,
when sacrifice and suffering are out of fashion.
God, make life worth the pain of living it.
Give us back the age-old realization
that life means to be born
again and again in pain,
that it may become again
a journey of hope to You,
together with Christ Jesus our Lord.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came to Jesus and 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.
• In today’s Gospel (Mk 12:28b-34), the scribes and the doctors of the Law want to know from Jesus which is the greatest commandment of all. Even today, many people want to know what is more important in religion. Some say that it is to be baptized. Others say that it is to go to church and to participate in the Sunday Mass. Others still say to love our neighbor and to struggle for a more just world! Others are concerned only with appearances and with tasks in the Church.
• Mark 12:28: The question of the doctor of the Law. Some time before the question of the scribe, the discussion was with the Sadducees concerning faith in the resurrection (Mk 12:23-27). The doctor who had participated in the debate was pleased with Jesus’ answer. He perceived in it His great intelligence and wished to take advantage of the occasion to ask a question to clarify something: “Which is the greatest commandment of all?” At that time, the Jews had many norms to regulate the observance of the Ten Commandments of the Law. Some said, “All these norms have the same value, because they all come from God. It is not up to us to introduce any distinction in the things of God.” Others said, “Some laws are more important than others, and for this reason, they oblige more!” The doctor wants to know what Jesus thinks.
• Mark 12:29-31: Jesus’ response. Jesus responds quoting a passage from the Bible which says that the greatest among the commandments is “to love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength!” (Dt 6:4-5). At the time of Jesus, pious Jews recited this phrase three times a day: in the morning, at noon and in the evening. It was so well known among them just as the Our Father is among us. The Pharisees would even wear Tefillin (phylacteries) which were tiny scrolls with these words written on them. And Jesus adds, quoting the Bible again, “The second one is: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev 19:18). There is no other greater commandment than these two.” A brief but very profound response! It is the summary of everything that Jesus teaches on God and His life (Mt 7:12).
• Mark 12:32-33: The response of the doctor of the Law. The doctor agrees with Jesus and concludes, “Well said, to love your neighbor as yourself, this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” That is, the commandment to love is more important than the commandments which concern the worship and sacrifices of the Temple. The Prophets of the Old Testament already had affirmed this (Hos 6:6; Ps 40:6-8; Ps 51:16-17). Today we would say that the practice of love is more important than novenas, promises, sermons and processions.
• Mark 12:34: The summary of the Kingdom. Jesus confirms the doctor’s conclusion and says, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God!” In fact, the Kingdom of God consists in the union of two loves: love toward God and love toward neighbor. Because if God is Father/Mother, we are all brothers and sisters, and we should show this in practice, living in community. “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets!” (Mt 22:40). We, disciples, should keep this law in our mind, in our intelligence, in our heart, in our hands and feet, because one cannot reach God without giving oneself totally to one’s neighbor!
• Jesus had said to the doctor of the law, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God!”(Mk 12:34). The doctor was already close, but in order to be able to enter the Kingdom he still had to go a step forward. In the Old Testament the criterion of love toward neighbor was: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. In the New Testament Jesus extends the sense of love: “This is My commandment: love one another as I have loved you! (Jn 15:12-23). Then the criterion will be “Love your neighbor as Jesus has loved us.” This is the sure path to being able to live together in a more just and fraternal way.
4) Personal questions
• What is the most important priority for you in exercising your religion?
• Are we (personally, our close community, our society) closer to the Kingdom of God nowadays or farther away from it than the doctor of the Law who was praised by Jesus?
5) Concluding Prayer
Among the gods there is none to compare with You,
for You are great and do marvellous deeds;
You, God, and none other. (Ps 86:8,10)