Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle B

Thirty First Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Mark 12: 28-34

“Which is the first of all the commandments?”

The question was one that was often discussed and debated in those days. From the initial Law, the Torah, there had developed a massive body of legislation controlling every aspect of life. In all there were 613 individual laws, and people wanted to know which were the most important; so, “which is the first of all the commandments?” In response Jesus quoted two passages of the Old Testament. First from Deuteronomy, the words known as the ‘Shema’ which every devout Jew prays every morning: “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength.” Second, from Leviticus: “You must love your neighbour as yourself”.

In a sense it could be said that Jesus had not answered the scribe’s question. He did not name any particular law as the most important. Rather what he did was to refer back to the underlying principles of all the Law – everything else rests on these two basic principles, love of God and love of neighbour. Today Jesus draws our attention to the spirit and purpose of all the commandments: the most important thing in life is to love God and to love one another with our whole hearts.

To live completely in this love of God and of others was the fundamental option of Jesus himself; it was the deliberate and determined decision which shaped everything about him, about his life and teaching, and even his death. It is supremely in this total commitment to love that Jesus invites us to follow him.