Lectio Divina: Mark 12:28b-34
1) Opening prayer
Your love never fails.
Hear our call.
Keep us from danger
and provide for all our needs.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Mark 12:28b-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.
• The Gospel today presents a beautiful conversation between Jesus and a doctor of the Law. The doctor wants to know from Jesus which is the first of all the commandments. Today, many people want to know what is most important in religion. Some say: to be baptized. Others, to pray. Others say: to go to Mass or to participate in worship on Sunday. Others say: to love your neighbor! Others are worried about the appearance or the changes or tasks in the Church.
• Mark 12:28: The question of the doctor of the Law. A doctor of the Law, who had seen the debate of Jesus with the Sadducees (Mk 12:23-27), was pleased with Jesus’ response, and he perceives in Him a great intelligence and wants to take advantage of this occasion to ask Him a question: “Which is the first one of all the commandments?” At that time the Jews had an enormous number of norms which regulated, in practice, the observance of the Ten Commandments of the Law of God. Some said: “All these norms have the same value, because they all come from God. It does not belong to us to introduce distinctions in the things of God”. Others would say, “Some Laws are more important than others, that is why they oblige more!” The doctor wanted to know Jesus’ opinion.
• Mark 12:29-31: Jesus’ response. Jesus responds by quoting a passage of the Bible to say that the first commandment is “to love God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength!” (Dt 6:4-5). At the time of Jesus, the pious Jews made of this text of Deuteronomy a prayer which they recited three times a day: in the morning, at noon and in the evening. It was also one of the four verses written in the phylacteries (tefillin) that men (mostly) wore. Among them it was known as today we know the Our Father. And Jesus adds, quoting the Bible again, “the second one is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other more important commandment than this one”. (Lev 19:18). A brief and profound response! It is the summary of all that Jesus has taught about God and about life (Mt 7:12).
• Mark 12:32-33: The answer of the doctor of the Law. The doctor agrees with Jesus and draws this conclusion: “To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself; this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.” In other words, the commandment of love is more important than the commandments related to worship and sacrifice in the Temple. This affirmation was already used by the prophets of the Old Testament (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, Masses, prayers, and processions.
• Mark 12:34: The summary of the Kingdom. Jesus confirms the conclusion reached by the doctor and says, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God!” In fact, the Kingdom of God consists in recognizing that love toward God is equal to the love of neighbor. Because if God is Father, we all are sisters and brothers and should show this in practice, living in community. "On these two commandments depend the Law and the prophets” (Mt 22:4). The disciples must keep in mind, fix in their memory, in their intelligence, in the heart, in their hands and feet this important law of love: God is only attained through the total gift of self to our neighbor!
• The first and most important commandment. The most important and first commandment was and will always be: “to love God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mk 12:30). In the measure in which the people of God, throughout the centuries, have deepened the meaning and the importance of the love of God, it has become aware that God’s love is true and real only in the measure in which it is made concrete in the love to neighbor. And thus, the second commandment which asks for the love for neighbor, is similar to the first commandment of God’s love (Mt 22:39; Mk 12:31). “Anyone who says I love God, and hates his brother, is a liar” (1 Jn 4:20). “On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Mt 22:40).
4) Personal questions
• There are different kinds of love, some incomplete. There is love that is possessive: “I love my spouse, you can’t have him/her”. There is the love that wants to share the one/thing loved: “I love these candies! Have some!” There is love that begets obligation: “I have to take care of my cat”. And there is the love that brings total service, as one does to a new baby: no one questions why the baby is upset, or advises the baby to eat less, but only responds with complete service at the moment.
Which form of love do I give to God, really and truly, and which form of love would my friends, neighbors, or community say I give?
• Of these types of love, which do I have for the people around me? Is it different for the people I see but don’t know personally? What should it be, and am I honest in my self-evaluation?
• I am on my way to the last Sunday Mass today. Someone approaches and needs my help. Do I miss Mass and help, or avoid the person so I can make it to Mass? How does your answer fit with these commandments from Jesus?
5) Concluding Prayer
Direct me in Your ways, Yahweh,
and teach me Your paths.
Encourage me to walk in Your truth and teach me
since You are the God who saves me. (Ps 25:4-5)