“Which is the first of all the commandments?” the scribe asked Jesus.
It’s strange how we all have questions and maybe think, in their answering, that we will have all we need for the journey. I’m not convinced it always works like that.
Back to the question though, and the answer. For Jesus it boiled down to love of God and love of neighbour – “There is no greater commandment”, he told the scribe “than these.” Love of God and love of neighbour; how is that going for us, what does it mean for us? What is expected of us when we love someone? I think it’s something to do with acting in a way that shows absolute respect for the person, for God. Respect that is rooted in wanting to do your best by what is loved and who is loved.
Love, St Paul tells us, “does not come to an end” So what about people who no longer “love God”, no longer believe in His presence. Even more importantly, what about those who ridicule Him? It all, seems to me, to be rooted in lack of love.
God’s love for us is certain. I was talking earlier today to some children in Second Class who are preparing for their First Confession next week. I read the words of absolution for them and the other children in the room. I asked them to listen out for the words they liked. I was pleased that the key words were found; “The Father of Mercies”, “Resurrection”, “Ministry” and I told them there were two words in particular I wanted them to listen out for. They heard them and with hands raised, wanted to tell me what they’d heard; “pardon and peace”.
I wonder how many of us hear those words in the moment of absolution. We can be caught up in “pardon” and lose sight of “peace”. It’s not accident they’re linked in this celebration of God’s forgiveness, God’s love for us all. He pardons; certainly. He wants us to be at peace too. Peace with God and peace with neighbour.
It’s not always easy and there are great sadnesses in relationships. Unfathomable sadness at times but the call remains, the twin commandments; “love God and love your neigbour”.
I’m convinced the world would be a better place if this happened more often. I know I’d be a better person if I could do this more often.
Sacrifices are one thing but genuinely wanting to be a better person – a loving person – one who has lasting respect for God and those around us and far away, is and remains the key.
The scribe saw this and Jesus saw in the scribe one who was “not far from the Kingdom of God”.
How close are we?