Love God and Love Your Neighbor

Just before this encounter with the scribe, Jesus had to endure the hair-splitting narrow-mindedness of those who used the Law to abuse others, Jesus included. Now with the scribe he experiences a completely different attitude: a mind and heart open to the mystery of the divine that is beyond human comprehension.

The scribe asks what is the most important commandment and Jesus answers with two commandments which he treats as one, revealing an important aspect of our faith: we often have to hold together disparate things which, to our minds, may even seem contradictory. For Jesus, it is not love of God or love of neighbor. The two are intrinsically linked and inseparable. Loving God means loving in community, which reflects the God who is One and Three, Trinity. How do we get our minds around that? Or how Jesus is both human and divine, or how he is present in the Eucharist under the form of bread and wine? To begin to live from such mystery we need open, generous minds and hearts.

Adapted Renew international Year B 2021

The other religious leaders had tried to trap Jesus in their narrow minded interpretations of the Law, but this scribe came with an open mind and a generous heart and was able to respond to the wisdom Jesus offered. In fact, we see him taking it even further with his understanding of sacrifice and love. How loving this man must have already been in his life. Jesus was delighted. Together they were able to show expansiveness in their understanding of God and of each other. In the face of such magnanimity of spirit, no wonder the others around were reduced to silence. Their petty questions shown for what they truly were: base meanness.

What a change! For once someone from the professional religious classes, a scribe, asks a genuine question: he really wants to know what Jesus thinks. And for once Jesus doesn’t answer a question with a question as he usually does with these religious ‘authorities’. He answers simply using the Schema, the daily prayer of the pious Jew based on Dt 6:3, and an edited quote from Lev 19:18. You can tell how delighted this scribe is with Jesus’ answer as he repeats it back, almost word for word, savouring the wisdom – then he adds his own wisdom which in turn delights Jesus.

Talk about heart speaking to heart. This man shares Jesus’ understanding of Law and religious tradition. These are not intended to be used to attack others, to put people down or to make one feel morally self-righteous. They are a form of discipline for body, soul and spirit that prepares a person to lead a life of worship of God and love of neighbor. People offer ‘sacrifice’ so that they can give generously in love. People conform their lives to all the ‘Thou shalt not’s of the commandments so that they can face the destructive forces of sin that undermine their desire to live rich and full lives in the love of God. Law, morality, Church practice and discipline do not exist to make us feel like failures or to make life difficult. Rather they exist to help us acquire the wisdom to live and love with the dignity of the children of God. [Living Liturgy 2015]