“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength and with all your mind, (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)
So easily does the young legal scholar answer Jesus with what is written in the Law. He is recalling two parts of the Torah, the Old Testament.
The first: Love of God is from Deuteronomy and the second: Love of Neighbor is found in Leviticus. Both these passages were very familiar to the Jews, especially the religious scholars and leaders of the time. In fact, the first part on loving God is recited by Jews in their daily prayer known as the Schema, which begins:
“Hear, O’ Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you today shall be (written) upon your heart. You shall teach them thoroughly to your children, and you shall speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road, when you lie down and when you rise”
The words from Leviticus, “Love your neighbor as yourself” has been called “the greatest principle of Judaism” and forms what is commonly known across most civilizations as the “Golden Rule.”
Both of these passages were deeply-rooted in the daily life and culture of the time, - as they should be today. In the First Reading we saw that the laws of God were easily accessible and commonly known– these commandments of God were not things out of reach of the people. They were - and still are - not impossible to know, understand or obey.
When Jesus summed up all the Law and the Prophets with the Two Greatest Commandments:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and the most important commandment. The second most important commandment is, ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’
He was only repeating what was already known and understood among the people - and all of which continues to be foundational and true today, though they seem to have taken a back seat to popular culture and secularism.
Most of us are familiar with the parable of the Good Samaritan. Here is a story the exemplifies God’s abundant love, God’s compassion, God’s mercy, God’s endless, infinite and everlasting desire to care for us, his creation, his people, his beloved children.
While the legal scholar was trying to trap Jesus into a narrow definition of “Who is our neighbor?”, so he could justify setting limitations to his actions, like the priest and the Levite in the story, Jesus’ response, with the story of the Good Samaritan, reflects God’s love for all his children. Like God’s endless, infinite and everlasting love – our neighbor is all His people, His beloved children – all our brothers and sister in the world.
As Christians, followers of Jesus Christ,
· when we see suffering in the world,
· when we hear our neighbors are oppressed,
· denied their humanity, starved, homeless,
· cast aside - uncared for and unloved -
Our response is exemplified in this quote of Louis Pasteur,
“One does not ask one who suffers: ‘What is your country?’ and ‘What is your religion?’ One merely says, ‘You suffer, that is enough for me’.”
- · This is the Good Samaritan’s response to suffering.
- · This is Jesus’ response to suffering.
- · This is God’s love.
God does not ask us to make sacrifices in our love for one another, but to give as freely as we receive. We are not to count the cost in coming to the aid of our neighbor, especially those who suffer the most, but to do so with – the same love, - the same care - and the same compassion we receive from our heavenly Father. For He has made the sacrifice of love for all time: Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ death on the cross freed us forever from the bonds of sin and division. In His sacrifice - we are united – we are members of one family, - we are all brothers and sisters - with one Father, -
- · who loves us without limitation, -
- · without hesitation, -
- · without misgivings, -
- · without condition.
He is a Father who asks us to love one another as He loves us, completely and forever.
In our love of God and in His command to His children to love one another as we are loved: Jesus has inscribed on our hearts forever - the answer to the scholar’s two questions: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” and “Who is my neighbor?” ~ Amen
Deacon Don Ron