Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
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.”
If we are not careful, the obvious can easily be forgotten or even neglected. Maybe today’s Gospel passage is an example of such a case.
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments.” How strange… How strange indeed. After all, it wasn’t every day that a scribe would approach Jesus in broad daylight to ask him a sincere question. Well, let’s not fool ourselves. Today was no different than any other day.
At first glance, the question may sound very innocent (too innocent), but the scribes, as well as the Pharisees, were in the business of tripping people up. Has much changed today? Aren’t reporters constantly trying to trip up politicians? Aren’t questions in meetings typically loaded questions? Or aren’t they directed more toward causing injury than to resolving problems? Or better yet, aren’t they directed more toward creating doubts with regards to the competency of a person than to a specific issue? Little has changed. Very little.
Not too long ago I received a strange e-mail from a stranger that requested a meeting with me. They wrote that they were doing a “project” for their school that required them to tape an interview with a priest. I wrote back asking them what was the nature of their project. “Oh, just a few questions…that’s all.” “Really?” I responded. “Well in that case, maybe it would be best to interview a professor at the University of Dallas who specializes in answering student questions, and would most likely have answers at the tip of their tongue.” The person wrote back saying, “No, I would prefer to interview you.” Oh, how sweet. Too sweet. The interview never materialized. I never wrote back.
Even simple questions, raised by ordinary individuals, must be carefully thought through. I learned this lesson the hard way when someone was just waiting to catch me on a bad day.
There will always be scoundrels in our world that specialize in tripping people up. They call themselves “friendly” when in reality they are everything but friendly. There will always be opportunists in our world that will have a “quick question”, while knowing the answer is anything but quick.
The scribe’s question was not an honest question. It was a trick question. And the idea behind it all was to see whether or not Jesus would answer the question based on the Law of Moses or based on Himself alone (for example: “Whoever believes in me will have eternal life”).
Well, by now, Jesus was an expert in knowing their dirty little tricks, for not only did He know how to answer their questions wisely; He also knew how to expose their hypocrisy as well, and at the same time.
“Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus answered the scribe by saying: “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.” The scribe responded by saying: “Well said, teacher. You are right.”
The Lord said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” WOW!!! What an answer!
Did you get that? Did you see how the Lord just exposed his hypocrisy?
It’s not enough that we just know the two great commandments. It’s absolutely necessary that we live by them! Knowing God will get us close to Him. Loving God will get us to Him. Knowing our neighbors will get us close to them. Loving our neighbors will get us to them!
Are you close to the Kingdom of God? If so, now you know what you must do to complete your journey!
Start living the commandments! This was the Lord’s lesson to the scribe. Hopefully, he wrote it down…in his heart.