The Greatest Commandment
How would you go about summing up the whole of the Old Testament? How would you even sum up the 10 Commandments? Well that is exactly what Jesus did in today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew. And he did it in such a short pithy way that made everyone who heard it at the time stop and think about the true meaning of “the law”.
Jesus’ answer has become for us one of the greatest takeaways of His teachings.
After answering the Sadducees questions in a way that left them none too happy, he was then questioned by the Pharisees. “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” they asked Him. Thinking that they may have trapped him, because surely no one could sum up the whole entire 613 laws or commandments of the Torah or even just the 10 Commandments. Jesus’ response did just that and stopped them in their tracks. He said to them, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
In His response Jesus brought together the well-known passage of The Shema from Deuteronomy (6:4-5) and a passage from Leviticus (19:18). With this statement, Jesus gives a complete summary of the moral law found in the Ten Commandments. The first three Commandments reveal that we must love God above all and with all our might. The last six Commandments reveal that we must love our neighbour. The moral law of God is as simple as and complex as fulfilling these two more great commandments.
If you wanted a definition of what religion truly is, I don’t think you would do better than this. For if there is “real” love for God, then there will be “real” love for neighbour, God’s love overflows into all areas of life through our words and actions. The bottom line for us is that we must put God first, our neighbour second and ourselves a distant third.
Paul is reflecting on this Sunday’s Gospel Matthew 22:34-40