First and Greatest of All the Commandments

by | Oct 30, 2018 | Formation, Reflections

Jesus teaches that the first and the greatest of all the commandments is to love God and the neighbor.  The Teacher practices, moreover, what he teaches.

According to Jewish teaching, there are 613 commandments.  Of these, 365 are prohibitions and 248 are positive commandments.  These numbers, however, do not, appear in the Bible.  Still, they make not a few people ask which of these commandments is the first or most important.  We human beings, after all, want to make one out of the many.

And so not surprisingly, a scribe asks Jesus, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”  And the one who asks is not an inquisitor, as in Mt 22, 35; he is not testing Jesus.  That is, he honestly wants to grasp all without losing all.

Always sincere, but especially to the sincere, Jesus answers the question.  He says, “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.

“And the second is this:

You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

The first commandment is the prayer that Jews are expected to recite often.  They should say it at home and when they are away, when they lie down and when they get up.

Jesus cites a second commandment, though the scribe does not ask for what is second.  And the Teacher welds it, so speak, to the first.  The two, then, become one:  “There is no commandment greater than these.”  Are not we to understand, then, that we cannot love God without loving also his other children, dear to him as we are?

To fulfill the first and greatest commandment of love, which sums up all the commandments, is to imitate Jesus.

Jesus, who is perfect forever, fulfills the law and the prophets.  And he gives us an example, so that we may do as he does.  He offers us his body and blood, so that we may become like him.  Not only is he true to God, loving him to the end.  He also loves his brothers and sisters to the extreme, becoming sin, a curse, for their sake (2 Cor 5, 21; Gal 3, 13).  He is the first to “leave God for God” (SV.EN IX:252)  He breaks the Sabbath and foregoes washing rituals to bring God’s love especially to those whom the world leaves behind.  He does not mind our missing the “thirty-three acts to the holy humanity” (SV.EN I:80) or other devotions, to learn to love God trustingly.   To come to understand that “love is above all rules” (SV.EN X:478).

Lord Jesus, grant that we may grow, first of all, in your love.  And may all things work together for our good and the good of all.

4 November 2018
31st Sunday in O.T. (B)
Dt 6, 2-6; Heb 7, 23-28; Mk 12, 28b-34


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