31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 12:28b – 34
We now live in a world that is becoming more complicated. Just look at the internet. I listen to parishioners who are complaining of their difficulty in keeping up with technology. The older ones always say, it was better during their time when things were a bit simpler.
In the gospel for today, Jesus is confronted again by one of the scribes in an effort to engage Jesus in a debate. In Judaism, there are about 613 rules and statutes in order for one not to violate any of the Ten Commandments given by Moses. In those 613, some are important, some are trivial and some are quite a nuisance. And yet, Jews are obliged to keep all of them in order to be of good standing in front of God.
In this kind of environment, scribes and Pharisees, liked to engage themselves in debates regarding which of the 613 rules and statutes was the most important. Of course, when they debated, each argument would always have their own points of agreement and disagreement and these debates could last for hours at a time. The scribe in the gospel wanted to “trap” Jesus because if he said any particular commandment, they could then engage him in endless arguments for and against his choice. However, Jesus was wise enough to know about this and instead of being dragged in endless debates, he quoted the well-known prayer which every Jew should memorise, the “Shema Israel” or “Hear, O Israel”. This prayer is a reminder that everybody should love God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength. And to love your neighbour as yourself. And with this Jesus answered so well that as the gospel said, “no one dared to ask him any more questions”.
And while Jesus’ answer is correct it is also beautiful and applicable to all of us. And the two commandments of Jesus are so comprehensive that they cover everything. St Augustine once said, “Love God and do as you please”. And how true it is because if we love God then every action flows from that - we can hardly do anything sinful.
Also, these two commandments of Jesus also reminds us how to properly love God. Whenever we see the cross, we can see a horizontal beam and a vertical beam. The vertical beam is our relationship with God and the horizontal beam is our relationship with our brothers and sisters. Both relationships are important and one can’t do without the other. For as Jesus said, “How can you love God whom you can’t see, if you don’t love your brothers and sisters whom you can see?”
Throughout the life of Christ, he tried to make worshipping God a truly beautiful experience and not to be trapped with so many legalisms that one focused not on God but on the law. Jesus never wanted that for us. For God is a God who loves and asks us to love him in return as well as our brothers and sisters.
As we continue to reflect on the gospels, we should also look at ourselves and how we worship our God. Do we go to church every Sunday because we feel obliged? Or feel that we might go to hell because we miss a Sunday Mass? Or do we pray and go to church because we want to thank God for all the things that he has done for us? How do we love our brothers and sisters? If a beggar comes to us after Mass, do we just ignore them or do we offer some help?
Jesus in the gospels makes things easier so that we can focus on what is really important and that is God and our neighbours. I hope this simple message will penetrate our hearts long after this Mass and be part of our everyday lifestyle. God bless.