I LOVE YOU LORD MY STRENGTH. (Ps.18:1)
Yet again the Pharisees try to trick Jesus into implicating himself. In this situation the question was, "which is the great commandment in the law?" This reflects the understanding that the Jews were under law to God, specifically the Law of Moses. While the Decalogue was the main frame of law, there were numerous lesser laws that governed life in relation to worship as well as community living. Over a period of time, the laws governing community relationships had been reduced to merely words, lacking in spirit.
Jesus responds to the lawyer’s question, not by picking out two commandments at random, rather, he chooses the 1st Commandment "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” as the greatest commandment. He says, "This is the first and great commandment." The commandment reflects the Shema, the oldest fixed daily prayer in Judaism, recited morning and night since ancient times, as commanded in the Torah. Loving “with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind” – this is the total man loving the total God. God didn’t hold back in giving to us; we shouldn’t hold back in giving to Him. No matter how often we hear these words, we are challenged by the demands they place upon us.
Jesus brings together the love of God and the love of our neighbor as being inseparable – like two sides of a coin. Loving God, who we cannot see, is false if it is not complemented by loving our fellowmen with whom we rub shoulders every day. This is not a new teaching. The 1st Reading from Exodus 22:20-26 takes us back to the days of the Sinaitic Covenant where among the numerous lesser laws prescribed, are the ones on how to treat your neighbor.
Jesus reiterates the same thing, only this time, raising it to the level of a commandment. From now, the love of God and the love of neighbor are not only inseparable, but also a sign of true discipleship.
How do you relate to your God? More importantly, how do you relate to your neighbor? Remember one without the other is incomplete and meaningless.