Gospel Reflection Oct 31 – Fr. Lynch
Sunday, October 31
Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 12: 28b-34
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “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.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
This Sunday’s Gospel is a friendly reminder that Jesus has come not to complicate our understanding of God, the Father’s law, and Love, but rather to simplify our limited understanding as God’s adoptive children. God gave Moses the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament at a pivotal time in Salvation History. It was from these Ten Commandments that hundreds of Jewish Laws were adopted and derived. Many of the Laws were found in the Book of Leviticus (The Book of Laws). This leads to eventually an inordinate number of laws to follow within any given day, for example, Jewish philosophy divides the 613 commandments (or mitzvot) into three groups—laws that have a rational explanation and would probably be enacted by most orderly societies (mishpatim), laws that are understood after being explained but would not be legislated without the Torah’s command (eidot), and laws that do not have a rational explanation (chukim).
Some Jewish scholars say that kashrut should be categorized as laws for which there is no explanation since the human mind is not always capable of understanding divine intentions. In this line of thinking, the dietary laws were given as a demonstration of God’s authority, and man must obey without asking why. As a result, many people struggled with scrupulosity as well as a constant state of fear, knowing that it was much more likely that within a given day a law might be broken rather than every single law adhered to perfectly.
Jesus comes on the scene and is challenged by the authority of those times in an effort to make him look bad, in hopes that Jesus would not have an answer that would suffice. Their question posed to our Lord was one that they did not have an answer to either, and so they assumed that Jesus would not have the answer as well. Jesus flips their world upside down by simplifying an extremely complicated question. He gives the perfect answer. He says in essence, Love God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself. These two laws are never explicitly given by Old Testament authorities and yet it summarizes all the intent of the 10 Commandments and Jewish authorities in having these 600+ laws in the first place. Jesus says if you follow these two Commandments well, then by virtue of living these two commandments you will vicariously follow the many other particular laws that were made, not because you are being forced to, but because you love God and God is Love.
The invitation Jesus gives us is to be set free from our self-made complications of this world and our limited understanding. He invites us to let go of what we think and let God lead our lives by not overcomplicating things but rather by simply loving God above all else and loving our neighbor as ourselves. St. Brigid of Kildare…Pray for us!
-Fr. Tim Lynch