Homily for the thirty-first Sunday of the Year - Year B - Mk. 12:28-34


by

Canon Dr. Daniel Meynen
 
 

" One of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, asked him, «Which commandment is the first of all?» Jesus answered, «The first is, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:4-5) The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Lev. 19:18) There is no other commandment greater than these.» And the scribe said to him, «You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.» And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, «You are not far from the kingdom of God.» And after that no one dared to ask him any question. "




Homily:


" One of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, asked him, «Which commandment is the first of all?» "


Some scribes had listened to Jesus teach the multitude, and one of them asks the Lord: "Which commandment is the first of all?" These questions about the commandments: "What are they? Which is the first?" are not only at the heart of the concerns of the Jews who claim to follow the Law of Moses, but they are also, and first, found in the depths of the human soul created in the image and in the resemblance of God. For, ever since the creation of the man and woman, God had given his commandment to those beings whom he destined for the highest glory, the most intimate glory that a creature can have with its Creator. The Lord had indeed given to Adam and Eve the commandment to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (cf. Gn. 3:3).


In the terrestrial Paradise, the commandment was obviously not a negative one, even if its formulation: "You shall not eat" (Gn. 3:3) seems to indicate the contrary. The terrestrial Paradise was a foretaste of the celestial Paradise, and thus everything was organized there for the perfect happiness of the man and woman. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was not a good the man and woman needed. For God wanted his creatures to be perfectly happy and for this reason he had placed them in the terrestrial Paradise. The man and woman were simply to obey the Lord and to prove their perfect love for him by abstaining from eating the forbidden fruit. Thus, ever since the creation of man, love for God is proven through the renouncement of a good or a creature which is not God.


Now that man has sinned, the love of God is still proven through the renouncement of a good which is not God, but this renouncement is always painful and difficult to some extent. For, a good which we must give up to please God is either something we truly need, or something we believe - falsely (due to our weakness as sinners) - that we truly need: and all of this causes us to suffer. So today, the love of God is proven through the renouncement of a good, which often happens to be ourselves, a renouncement which is to a certain extent difficult and painful, depending on the degree of our attachment to the good we give up.


" Jesus answered, «The first is, "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." (Deut. 6:4-5) The second is this, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (Lev. 19:18) There is no other commandment greater than these.» "


Jesus cites the Scriptures here: for he comes to give to the Law its perfection, he comes to show all men, and first the Jews, how the Law must be lived in all its perfection. In order to do this, Jesus will go so far as to die on the wood of the Cross, accomplishing the commandment of love in the most sublime perfection possible! By realizing in his person what Scripture says, Jesus restores fallen creation. Thus, what we could already have read, with difficulty, in the first creation, becomes clearer and more explicit in the very text of the Word of God, that of Christ, the Word of God made man. Thanks to the Gift of the Holy Spirit, today we can read Holy Scripture and discover in an increasingly more perfect manner what God expects of man: a perfect and undivided love!


In a certain sense, Holy Scripture is already the beginning of the New Creation. Does Saint Paul not say, speaking of the Christians regenerated in Christ, by the Spirit: "You are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God" (2 Cor. 3:3)? Thus, the command of the Lord is present everywhere and the Spirit of God reminds us of it always. It is present in the man or woman we walk past in the street, in the subway, at the office, at the workplace. This other, whom we see there, is Christ who tells us and reminds us: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength... You shall love your neighbor as yourself." This other - this man, this woman, this child - is the entire creation which speaks to us to remind us of the commandment of God par excellence: that of love!


" And the scribe said to him, «You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.» And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, «You are not far from the kingdom of God.» And after that no one dared to ask him any question. "


The scribe who answers Jesus said something wise: "Jesus saw that he answered wisely..." The scribe makes a proper relation between, on the one hand, the love of God and of others, and on the other hand, burnt offerings and sacrifices, by placing love above sacrifices. But the scribe, obviously, has a tendency to want to dissociate love from sacrifice. This is why Jesus merely says: "You are not far from the kingdom of God." For him to be truly in the Kingdom of God, and not merely near it, it would be necessary for love to realize in him the fullness of sacrifice, which Jesus perfectly accomplished on the Cross of Calvary. For love is the gift of self, the gift of self to the other, this other who is God, as well as our neighbor.


During this Eucharistic celebration, let us ask the Lord that we might truly love him, with all of our heart. May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who sacrificed herself fully, for love of God, by offering up her Son dying on the Cross, grant us her help and her protection throughout our life! May the Holy Spirit, through Mary and for her, live ever more and more in our hearts and make us into living "letters" to enlighten the entire world with the Word of God!



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