From the Word of the Day
One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, 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. (Mark 12: 28-31)
Here is one of the Bible pages that is most important and known, yet subject to the risk of misinterpretation. It is a great joy to listen to today’s Gospel that proclaims the first commandment of all: LOVE. Jesus is responding to the Scribe’s question and cites the most recurring text in the spirituality of Israel. It is a passage from Deuteronomy, the celebrated shema’ Israel: “Listen Israel! 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 a passage from Leviticus, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. From the labyrinth of precepts, Jesus chooses only these two that clearly express the essence of God’s will in all its simplicity; love God and others.
The Mosaic Law had then preoccupied itself with various and multiple life cases, formulating a series of prescriptions and losing sight of the center that gives unity and zeal to everything. For Jesus, the center that unifies is Love. The Teacher further explains to the Scribe that the commandment is not just one, but two, intimately united, as two faces of the same coin. One face it turned toward God and the other is turned toward men and women. These two must never be separated. The capacity to keep these two loves solidly united is the geniality and novelty of Christ.
The two loves of God and neighbor are so closely connected that one verifies the other. However, they are also different. The measure of love of God is its totality. Jesus repeats the word ‘all’ four times. Instead, the measure of love of our neighbor is ‘as we love ourselves’. Thus, to God belongs total and unconditional love. To others belong help, service, and love as for ourselves but not the adoration we give to God.
The Voice of St. Augustine
The love of God is the first commandment. But love of neighbor is first as its practical application. The One who gives you this commandment of love in these two precepts does not first teach love of neighbor and then love of God but vice versa. However, since you do not see God yet, by loving your neighbor you acquire the merit to see Him; by loving your neighbor you purify your eyes to be able to see God.