Sunday, October 31, 2021

Nothing Greater

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

Again, this morning Jesus speaks to us as wisdom teacher, faithful to his Jewishness. For our Jewish forebears, Torah was the Way. Jesus our Lord affirms and completes Torah in all that he teaches, in all his deeds, in all that he is. Jesus is Torah perfectly fulfilled and enfleshed - he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

For the Jewish people following the Law, seeking God’s will in every detail, meant everything. All the details of the Law were ways to keep the Lord ever in mind, remind them that they belong to God, and so need not withhold anything from him. Jesus agrees, and he assures us that he has come to fulfill the Law. 

Jesus’ way of compassion and mercy embodies the values that underpin the precepts of the Law, precepts that he was weaned on as a child in Nazareth. He knows the Law; he lived the Law in detail. And he comes to complete the teaching of the Law, to open it up to the truth at its heart. Loving the outsider, caring for the orphan and widow, turning the other cheek - these are Jewish values, Jesus did not invent them. He comes to embody them, free them from all constraint, from any limit on the compassion that wholeheartedness will allow.

Jesus loved the Lord, his God, and Father, with his whole heart, with all his mind and soul and body, with all his strength, even unto death, death on a cross to free us, his own dear "neighbors" in the flesh, from the constraints of sin and death. What return shall we make for his goodness to us?

Photograph by Father Emmanuel.