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Mark 12: 28-34 – 31st Sunday Year B, also Lent Week 3, Friday (Audio Bible KJV, Spoken Word)

28 ¶ And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?
29 And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:
30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
31 And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.
32 And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he:
33 And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
34 And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

Jesus has discussed the resurrection of the dead with those who question him. He has spoken truly and in accordance with the Old Testament teachings of the Bible. The scribe who now asks Jesus his question is clearly a just man; he is not seeking to test Jesus but rather to learn from him and discover the truth. Jesus sees this and makes time to speak to the scribe quite plainly. The scribe accepts what Jesus has to say and we hear of Jesus’ message sinking into his heart.

In response to the scribe’s question, Jesus replies with a quotation from the Bible which would have been very familiar to the Jews – a phrase, from Deuteronomy, which they would have repeated three times each day: Love God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. Jesus adds to this, from Leviticus 19: 18, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’

Now we are told, this is the whole of the Law; there is no other commandment than these.

We are taught, again, to hold our love of God and our love of our fellow human beings as one. Should we give selflessly and with all love to God and to our neighbours – treating all other human beings as our neighbours – then all else, all other good, will follow. The whole of the Law is here.

We might note the word ‘all’. We are to love God with all our being; there is to be nothing reserved. We are to give God everything.

The scribe accepts what Jesus has taught to him and Jesus sees this and says: Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. This is a great message of encouragement, to teach us all to love and to give everything, and to love God and our fellow man as Jesus loves us.

This great message of love silences Jesus’ critics. Jesus’ message is clear and it is true beyond question.

In the Bible, Jesus re-affirms and then also extends the message of love of the Old Law. ‘This is my commandment: love one another as I have loved you!’ In so loving, we must surpass ourselves.

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Love Your Neighbour As Yourself

The meaning of this commandment is clear: we are to love others as we love ourselves.

There is a twofold meaning:

  1. We are to consider and to treat others with the same respect, care, and kindness that we would want for ourselves. It means putting the needs of others before our own, and being willing to sacrifice for their sake. It also means recognizing the inherent value and dignity of every human being, regardless of their race, ethnicity, gender, or social status.
  2. We are to love ourselves – in the right way. This means accepting the love of God and considering and treating ourselves, our minds and bodies, with the respect and care and kindness which God wishes for us. This is a matter of personal conscience and human dignity.

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Social Justice And The Common Good

The Church has long emphasized the importance of social justice and the common good. In his encyclical letter Caritas In Veritate, Pope Benedict XVI wrote: ‘Love of neighbour is thus shown to be possible in the way proclaimed by the Bible, by Jesus. It consists in the very fact that, in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know. This can only take place on the basis of an intimate encounter with God, an encounter which has become a communion of will, even affecting my feelings. Then I learn to look on this other person not simply with my eyes and my feelings, but from the perspective of Jesus Christ.’

Likewise, Protestant theologian Martin Luther emphasized the importance of love and charity in his writings. In his treatise On Christian Liberty, Martin Luther wrote: ‘A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.’ This idea of being both free and servant to all is an expression of the love we are called to show our neighbours.

There are many stories in the Bible of people living out this commandment. The parable of the Good Samaritan illustrates the idea that our neighbour is not just the person who lives next door, but anyone who is in need. In this story, a man is beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. Two religious leaders pass by without helping him, but a Samaritan stops and cares for him, even paying for his medical treatment.

The commandment to ‘love thy neighbour as thyself’ is not a new concept introduced by Jesus in the New Testament. It has its roots in the Old Testament as well.

In Leviticus 19:18, we read: ‘Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.’ Here, we see that the commandment to love one’s neighbour is given alongside other instructions about how to live justly and righteously. It is a part of a larger framework of ethical and moral conduct that is expected of God’s people.

Proverbs 3:28 says: ‘Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.’ Here, we see an admonition not to put off doing good for one’s neighbour, but to act with kindness and generosity in the present moment.

The story of Ruth is a powerful example of loving one’s neighbour. Ruth, a foreigner, chooses to stay with her mother-in-law Naomi after her husband dies, even though she could have returned to her own people. She shows great kindness and loyalty to Naomi, and her love for her neighbour ultimately leads to her redemption and blessing.

In the story of David and Jonathan, despite the fact that Jonathan was the son of King Saul, whom David was anointed to replace, the two became close friends and showed great love and loyalty to each other. Jonathan even risked his own life to protect David from his father’s wrath.

In Deuteronomy 10:19, we read: ‘Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.’ Here, God instructs the Israelites to show love and compassion to strangers and foreigners, as they themselves were once strangers in a foreign land. This commandment emphasizes the importance of hospitality and welcoming those who are different from us.

In the book of Job, we see an example of loving one’s neighbour through acts of kindness and generosity. Job, despite his own sufferings, continually helped the poor and needy in his community. He was known for his kindness and compassion, even to those who were not his friends or family.

The prophet Micah spoke about the importance of loving one’s neighbour. In Micah 6:8, he says: ‘He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’ Here, Micah emphasizes that loving one’s neighbour is not just about doing good deeds, but also about living a just and humble life in relationship with God.

The parable of the Good Samaritan, told by Jesus in Luke 10:25-37, has its roots in the Old Testament. In Leviticus 19:34, God commands the Israelites: ‘But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.’ The parable of the Good Samaritan emphasizes the importance of showing compassion to those who are different from us, even if they are strangers or enemies.

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