One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" Jesus replied, "The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
“Get your priorities straight!” When someone says that, I hear the voice of my father from when I was little—maybe not in those words, but telling me to concentrate on what was important. These days with “lots on my plate” to do each day, I need to prioritize. I find myself so easily distracted by things that I like to do, or things that don’t involve conflict or pain!
That’s the message from today’s Scriptures. Jesus, drawing on the Old Testament where Moses calls the people to love God totally, gives us the priorities of the Kingdom: Love of God and love of neighbor. That’s Christ’s answer to the scribe who wants to know what the first of all the commandments is. Jesus quotes a text which was used as a daily prayer by faithful Jews: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is Lord alone!” Then he goes on to add the love of neighbor as ourself—something that flows naturally from love of God.
In these days when so many other things distract us, calling for our time and energy, we need these Christian priorities. Whether it’s within the parish, or in our family life, or beyond—in our world if we focus on God first, then on loving others because of our relationship with God—we’ll have our priorities straight. And then we can properly evaluate everything else.
The first reading states: “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” Who is speaking in this central command of Israel’s Law? Who is giving this law that became a part of daily devotions among devout Jews? What does this command to love the Lord mean in terms of heart, soul, strength?
We hear in the second reading: “Jesus has a priesthood that does not pass away.” Why is Jesus’ priesthood unlike that of the Jewish priests who served in the Temple?
Why did the Temple priests have to offer sacrifice and prayers day after day?
In the Gospel, Jesus is asked: “Which is the first of all the commands of the Law?” What is the source from which Jesus answers at first? (hint: today’s first reading)
The second part of Jesus’ answer, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” comes from the book of Leviticus (Lev 19:18). Have you ever heard of that book of the Bible? Does the Gospel reading say that the scribe who asked the question was trying to trick Jesus?
by Susan Hines-Brigger
Do you know the people who live right next door to you? If so, consider bringing them a treat or write a note saying what you love about being their neighbor.
Think of the term neighborin a broader sense and find a way to help people outside the immediate area where you live. That might mean volunteering at a place in your city that helps people, such as a soup kitchen. Or you could gather supplies or funds for programs that help people around the world. Many Catholic organizations, such as Catholic Relief Services, have ways you can help.