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 put a question to Jesus, 'Which is the first of all the commandments?' Jesus replied, 'This is the first: Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is the one, only Lord, and you must 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 must love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.' The scribe said to him, 'Well spoken, Master; what you have said is true, that he is one and there is no other. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself, this is far more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.'
Jesus, seeing how wisely he had spoken, said, 'You are not far from the kingdom of God.' And after that no one dared to question him any more.
• 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, also many persons 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 the worship on Sunday. Others say: to love your neighbour! Others are worried about the appearance or the charges 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 the response of Jesus, and he perceives in him a great intelligence and wants to profit 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: The response of Jesus. 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. 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 neighbour 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 the conclusion: “To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and strength, and to love your neighbour 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 (Ho 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 neighbour. 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 the hands and in the feet this important law of love: God is only attained through the total gift of self to our neighbour!
• 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, has 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 neighbour. And thus, the second commandment which asks for the love for neighbour, 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 too” (Mt 22, 40).
4) Personal questions
• For you, what is more important in religion and in life? Which are the concrete difficulties that you find, in order to be able to live that which you consider more important?
• Jesus tells the doctor: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God”. Today, am I nearer or farther away from the Kingdom of God than the doctor praised by 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)