Meditation of the week

Loving God and neighbour

Mark 12,28-34.

Having reached Jerusalem, Jesus has already cleansed the Temple, and been challenged about this by the chief priests, scribes and elders. He has also been queried by the Pharisees and Herodians about paying taxes to Caesar, and finally, has been quizzed by the Sadducees about belief in the resurrection from the dead.

One of the scribes, who was impressed by Jesus’ answers to the hostile questions from the various religious factions, came back to Jesus with a genuine question about the greatest/first commandment of the Law. This would have been a regular subject of debate among the Jews in Jesus’ time.

Jesus replied by quoting the famous prayer (Deut 6,4-5) known as the Shema Israel which every Jew  recited each morning. “Hear, O Israel the Lord your God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength,” is the first commandment. Notice how Jesus adds “and with all your mind” to the original text.  Immediately, he states that the second commandment is; “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” (Lev 19,18).  Loving one’s neighbour as oneself means promoting his/her well-being in every way we would wish for ourselves.

Both these texts would have been familiar to every Jew of Jesus’ day. However, what was completely new to them was the way Jesus linked these two widely separated commandments together, as if they were the two sides of the same coin.  He was the only one to bring them together like this as the two regulations which sum up a person’s primary religious duties.

The scribe was deeply impressed by Jesus’ answer, and savoured its content by repeating it word for word.

This gospel passage and Luke 11,42 are the only two places in the Synoptic gospels (Mt,Mk and Lk) which speak of our love for God ( It is mentioned only 5 times in St Paul’s writings). The emphasis is more on God’s love for us, and it is on this love that our love for God is based. We should love God because He has first loved us. (1Jn. 4,19).

Love of God must be whole-hearted.  Loving God with our heart, soul, mind and strength indicates that our love must be complete and all embracing.  Nothing is excluded. Think of ways in which you love God with your mind?

The Love commanded, (agape), is the highest form of love, pure self-giving which is devoid of self-seeking or reward.  We should love God for his own sake. Love of God is indissolubly linked by Jesus with love of neighbour.  Love of neighbour arises out of love of God. There are countless ways in which we can show our love for our neighbour in action, in private, in family, and in parish life.  The result of such action inevitably leads yourself and others to love God more.

Loving yourself is the opposite of selfishness. It means affirming and loving our God- given worth, gifts, beauty, goodness, achievements and failures etc.

As the eloquent, enthusiastic,  American bishop/ preacher  at Prince Harry and Megan Markel’s  Royal Wedding, reminded us, (quoting  Fr Teilhard De Chardin,  S.J), – “some day,  after we have mastered the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we will harness for God the energies of love and then for the second time in the history  of the world we will have discovered fire. “

Fr Geoff O’Grady