15th Sunday after Pentecost, Aug. 28, 2016. Mt 22 35-46

In this Gospel passage Jesus combines Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 19:18.

“Therefore you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength

“Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your fellow countrymen. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.”

The cultural background of the lawyer’s question has to do with a rabbinic understanding of the Law.

The Torah (first five books) gives 248 positive commands and 365 prohibitions for a total of 613 commands.

The talit or prayer shawl, worn by Jews when they pray, has 613 tassels as a reminder of these laws. This is ordered in the Book of Numbers, 15:37-39, “The Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, fastening a violet cord to each corner. When you use these tassels, the sight of the cord will remind you of all the commandments of the Lord and you will do them, without prostituting yourself, going after the desires of your hearts and your eyes”.

This is repeated in Deuteronomy that they should “make twisted cords upon the four corners of your covering, with which you cover yourself”.
(Deut. 22:12)

Some laws were light; some were heavy. Arguments about the greatest of these was a favorite rabbinic pastime.

What Jesus does here is take the Deuteronomy law of loving God, which was certainly a heavy law, and equate it with the Leviticus law of loving neighbor, making it equally heavy. Nowhere is this done in Jewish literature.

So we have here, just as in the parable of the Good Samaritan, the call to love God and to love the people around us. And there is also an implicit command to love oneself – in a properly ordered manner.

The first commandment, not in Scriptural order, but in priority, is to love God and to love him with one’s whole heart, soul and mind.

There are three aspects of this love of God:

With our whole hearts: we hold within ourselves the fulness of this love of God and its thoughts and actions

With our whole soul: ready to lay it down for the service of God who created all things, whenever his Word demands it. No part of the soul is taken up with anything that is out of keeping with the faith

With our whole mind: thinking and speaking of nothing else but the things of God, meaning our intellect which searches for that which is knowable and the source of them, which, of course, is God himself.

The Second great commandment is like the first because people are created in the image and likeness of God.

If a person love his neighbor, then he will also love God; for it is from one and the same love that we love God and our neighbor. However, the difference is that we love God for his own sake. We love our neighbor and ourselves for God’s sake.

When the love of God is present, the love of neighbor necessarily follows. Where love of neighbor is lacking there is no true love of God.

How do these two commandments fulfill the whole Law and the prophets?

After all, the Law deals with so many ritual prescriptions; the prophets foretell the fall of Jerusalem.

Because the one who fulfills all that is written concerning the love of God and his neighbor is worthy of receiving the highest of God’s favors. The first of these is the word of wisdom through the Holy Spirit, through which comes the word of knowledge derived from that same Holy Spirit.

Having been made worthy of all these gifts, a person rejoices in the wisdom of God; his heart is filled with the love of God. His whole soul is illumined by the light of knowledge; his whole mind by the word of God.

Receiving such gifts from God, one truly understands that the whole law and the prophets are but part of all the wisdom and knowledge of God. One understands that the whole law and the prophets depend on, and have as their beginning, the love of God and of our neighbor. One understands that the perfect fulfilment of our duty to God consists in this love.

The second part of this Gospel reading is “The Lord said to my lord”.

In Hebrew, the word adonai is used for God and also for the king (my lord).
So, “God said to the king”.

The rabbis presumed that David was inspired, that he wrote Psalm 110, from whence this quote comes, and that adonai refers to the Messiah, who would be the descendant (son) of David.

The Psalm may be considered as addressed to the Messiah-king.

The Lord, therefore, is called David’s Lord, not because he was descended from him in the flesh, but because of his eternal generation from the Father, preceding his birth in a human nature.

Although the Messiah is David’s descendant, he is also God, so David can call his descendant “Lord”.

Since the Pharisees could not solve this simple exegetical problem, Jesus implies that they aren’t competent teachers in Israel. They do not understand the Scriptures concerning the Messiah, because they thought the Messiah would be only a human being and not the Son of God.

We, on the other hand, do know that Jesus is the descendant of David; he is the Messiah; he is the Son of God, truly divine himself.

It is his saving grace that impels us to love God with our whole heart, soul and mind, to love ourselves and to love our fellow humans as ourselves.

The divine Eucharist is the great sacrament of divine love. This love unites us all in the Holy Spirit. In the Eucharist we are drawn more and more completely into unity with the Trinity and with one another, loving God and loving our neighbor. Will you live that reality each day of your life?


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