The Greatest Commandments

Mark 12: 28-34
Hos 14: 2-10 / Ps 8:6-11,14,17

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength… You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
(Mark 12:30,31)

Greater love there can be no other,
Nor is there greater mystery:
That sacrifice of God our Father
For His Son’s death in Calvary.

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked Him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” Jesus answered him, “The most important one,” is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” The man replied, “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but Him. To love Him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:28-34)

Reflection

This passage is the only occasion in the Bible where a scribe agreed completely with Jesus when he asked Him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” After our Lord answered loving God and one’s neighbor are the two greatest commandments, the scribe realized that Jesus was indeed the undisputed authority of Scriptures.

There is no argument, no clash of opinions, as far as the subject of love is concerned. The scribe had in mind the Ten Commandments that Yahweh God gave to Moses (Deut.5:6-21) when he asked Jesus which was the first of all the commandments. But Jesus’ answer is not found in the Ten Commandments at all! Instead, our Lord quoted Moses in the book of Deuteronomy (6:4-5), and added a passage from Leviticus 19:18, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus wanted His listeners to understand that the laws handed down to Moses were intended to serve God, by avoiding what was sinful, and performing the duties expected of His people. Loving God and neighbor are the greatest commandments because they are done not in obedience to laws, but in imitation and adulation of the Father’s nature, Who is Love. Love is the greatest commandment because it is not just a commandment, but the fruit of the Holy Spirit that God gives to His faithful children. It is not a task to perform, but a commitment to give of oneself without conditions, without limits.

To love God with all our heart is to love Him above everything that we hold dear, including friends, family, and self, holding nothing back, even life itself. To love God with all our mind is to meditate constantly on His Word, and employ all the talents and abilities that we possess for the purpose that He has laid out for us to propagate His love. To love God with all our strength is to acknowledge our own weakness, and then to use the strength of the Holy Spirit to propagate the Good News of Jesus. And to love our neighbor as our self is to love him as Jesus has shown us in the Gospel.

Father God, our Lord Jesus has taught us what pleases You most. Grant us the grace to love all the people in our life, including those we’d rather not, for Your sake. Amen.

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