Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
You remember them from your school days. It was the boy or girl whose arm invariably shot upward whenever the teacher would ask: “Are there any questions?” They often annoyed me, even if the person was unaware. And especially if I knew them outside the classroom. I admit that the devil in me imagined something like a can of paint falling on their head and drenching them downward, a la the burglars-turned-victims by the young boy in the movie “Home Alone.”
This imaginary punishment arose from my rash conclusion that these questioners were actually only after “brownie points” and not the actual answer to their query. I suppose I’ll find out for sure on Judgment Day. Later in life, as fate would have it, I wound up being a teacher. When a hand went up from a questioner, I knew it was my solemn duty to answer the questioner with trust that he or she was sincere.
Our scribe in today’s Gospel passage was nothing like those suspicious adolescents. He was most sincere. In fact, we know this was one of the rare occasions in Our Lord’s story when a scribe was not hostile or acting from a malicious motive. Note how the man drew forth Our Lord’s approval.
Recall that the Scribes were those Palestinian scholars and teachers of Jewish law and tradition, active from the 5th century B.C. up to the 1st century A.D. who transcribed, edited and interpreted the Bible. They knew their Scriptures. So the topic of the greatest commandment often arose in their discussions. The common people asked about it. The Holy Spirit wants us to listen in for a learning exercise of our own.
Jesus took the first two precepts and blended them. It was for sure a masterful stroke. Is it any wonder that many of His early disciples called Jesus “Master?”
Now comes our reaction to this scene. We know the problem. Relatively easy to keep “Part 1” (the love of God). After all, God doesn’t live next door and mow the lawn early on a Saturday morn, your one day to sleep late. He doesn’t tailgate. Doesn’t flatter the boss. Doesn’t let the pet pooch run loose on your yard to make deposits, or ever chew His food with His mouth open. Loving God is easy if for no other reason than the fact that He is invisible yet loves us unconditionally.
It’s that troublesome “Part 2”: (the love of neighbor) that’s sometimes a big problem. We have to try to see Christ in our neighbor. Not just the one next door, but everywhere. With anybody of a different political opinion. Or of a different creed or color. Anywhere and everywhere on God’s green earth.
As for the times we live in being the cause of our problem with this and other Christian teachings, here is St. Augustine on the matter: “You hear people complaining about this present day and age because things were so much better in former times. I wonder what would happen if they could be taken back to the days of their ancestors—would we not still hear their complaining? You may think past ages were good, but it is only because you are not living in them.” (From Readings, Wed. of 20thweek)
God love you and give you His peace.|
Reading I: Deuteronomy 6: 2-6
This is the Law for life in the land. It introduces the command to love Yahweh alone. It also acts a sequel to the Ten Commandments.
Reading II: Hebrews 7: 23-28
Christ’s priesthood brings His disciples into communion with God. His unique priesthood lasts forever.
The Gospel: Mark 12: 28b-34
Among the 613 precepts of the Old Testament law, the topic of which is the greatest was often asked of Jewish teachers. Jesus’ answer, which is original for combining two commands into one, sets the basis for a godly life.