Scripture: Lectionary 152 31st Sun. B. Deuteronomy 6:2-6. Psalm 18:2-3.3-4.47.51. Hebrews 7:23-28, Mk 12:28b-34
Strange and impossible as it may seem, if everyone alive today would embrace what we read or hear in Deuteronomy and in the Gospel, we would have world peace! The readings help us to focus on the greatest of commandments given to us— love of God and love of neighbor. The Shema is contained in the selection from Deuteronomy and this is prayed twice a day by the Jewish people. It is their act of faith in God who is all good and loving. In coming to the actual verse of the Shema one notices that in all the Hebrew texts capitalize that word which means HEAR, LISTEN. The rest is known by those who read the Bible: Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God is One. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” S. Sfrono, a classical Hebrew commentator tells us that the Hebrew words for hear and One are written large to concentrate attention upon the thought contained therein. This part of Deuteronomy is essential to the covenant and the faith of the Israelites and in our present time for all Jewish people. It is similar to a creedal statement of their total love for God in all the dimensions of their lives-heart including all the good and evil
inclinations (yetzer ha ra’ and yetzer ha tov). Soul means even unto sacrificing one’s life for the covenantal love with God. Might means with the utmost of our power to revere and honor God with total love.
David who was the greatest king ever in Israel was named the “Beloved One” of God. He expressed this love in the many psalms attributed to him and today’s Psalm 18 does just what David did. This psalm is a perfect reflection upon the two greatest commandments. His heart was always in love with God who is a tower of strength, a fortress, and a rock. This psalm is so important that it appears twice in the Hebrew Scriptures, the “Tanach.” The other version is found in II Samuel 22:2-51.
The dialogue that Jesus has with the one who asks “Which is the greatest commandment?” is one of the most pleasant that Jesus has with someone. Both are in agreement that the text from Deuteronomy gives us the first and greatest of the commandments; Jesus adds a second by joining it with Leviticus 19:18:”Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.” Rabbi Akiba joins Jesus in saying this is a
fundamental law of the Torah. Another rabbi name Hillel said, “Do not unto others that which you would not have them do unto you.” (The Golden Rule). Or, in even a more complete sentence he says, “What you hate for yourself, do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole law; the rest is commentary.” Jesus joins the two commandments together as one through the word love. With these two commandments of positive love for God and neighbor we have a tour de force for our relationship with God and neighbor. The combination thus is a summary of the entire constellation of 613 commandments practiced by those faithful to the Torah. They are done with ease and without counting when these commandments are lived out with love. Some Christians say that it Jesus who joined the two texts, but we see from Mark’s story that the Jewish person understood this too. Both were agreeing. In Mark we find out that Jesus rarely makes a complimentary remark about his questioners but her and with they young man who kept the commandments Jesus loves both. They are not far from the kingdom of God.
Life is a journey toward God based on relationships that we experience and cherish. The essence of the covenant is a relationship with God. The essence of the commandments consists in our relationships with others and, of course, with God.
Copyright 2012 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.