Thirty First Sunday Ordinary Time Year B
Readings: Deut 6:2-6; Heb -28; Mk 12:28-34
Love of God is inseparable from our love of neighbor. The readings of this Sunday focus our attention on our duty to love God and our neighbor as ourselves. Our Christian vocation is compared to Israel’s response to God’s covenant of love in the first reading. God loves Israel and in return God demands that his people too give their undivided love and commitment to God. The reading is a reminder that our love of God is not about going to Mass on Sunday, nor is it about saying our prayers. It is about being faithful to God in everything we do. In a sense we are called to daily faithfulness to the Lord our God. In return God will bless us with long life and prosperity according to his promises. The only condition is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. In the Gospel Jesus quotes from Leviticus to reminds us that our love of God is inseparable from our love of neighbor. God makes us participants in his divine life on condition that we love our neighbor. When we live the two commandments, then like the scribe in the Gospel we are not far from the kingdom of God. In other words, in loving others as we love ourselves, we clearly show that we love God whom we see in our neighbor.
The gospel passage follows upon the theme of commitment and obedience introduced in the first reading. Here a learned scribe asks Jesus to identify the first commandment of the law. The reason for the question was that not all 613 laws had the same weight and importance. Thus the scribe genuinely wanted some clarity from Jesus. His answer was very faithful to the Jewish faith. Jesus does not offer one commandment, but two: 1) the affirmation of faith found in the first reading (Deuteronomy 6:5); and 2) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (quoted from Leviticus 19:18). Jesus in this passage teaches us that our communion with God is achieved through the two commandments love: love of God and love our neighbor. These are the two Commandments that summarize all the other Commandments of God. Jesus tells us in the Gospel that there are no other Commandments greater than these, for they are more important than any offerings or sacrifices. The failure in love of neighbor is dramatic in many parts of the world. We can say without doubt that, apart from selfish economic reasons, the failure to love neighbors in many countries is clearly one of the major causes of conflict. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) We are reminded that failure in love of neighbor is incompatible with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 2) Our love of God is inseparable from our love of neighbor. 3) We are challenged to see the image and likeness of God in the faces of those different us, no matter who they are. Think about it.
©2012 John S. Mbinda