A teacher of the Law had been listening to this discussion and admired how Jesus answered them. So he came up and asked him,
Which commandment is the first of all?
The first is: Hear, Israel! The Lord, our God, is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And after this comes a second commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these two.
The teacher of the Law said to him,
Well spoken, Master; you are right when you say that he is one, and there is no other besides him. To love him with all our heart, with all our understanding and with all our strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves is more important than any burnt offering or sacrifice.
Jesus approved this answer and said,
You are not far from the kingdom of God.
And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
As an observant Jew, Jesus recited the traditional Jewish prayer Shema, which speaks of loving God with everything one has. But Jesus coupled this with love of neighbor and linked both commandments inseparably. For Jesus, love of neighbor is fundamental to discipleship because it is through this that one’s love for God is concretely expressed. The prayer begins with an invitation, “Hear, Israel!” – to get one’s full attention. Then it describes how to love God – with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength. The “heart” brings out the concept of our inner person, the center of our personality and true self before God. The “soul” refers to the energy of life, animating us and enabling us to make choices and commitments to God and neighbor. The “mind” signifies our ideas, thoughts, and perspective of life, submitting these under God’s scrutiny in discerning where God is leading us. Finally, “strength” refers not only to all our gifts and capabilities but also to our faith as it matures in the crucible of life. Jesus identified the proper order: love of God, love of neighbor. Does our love of God motivate us to love our neighbor through our compassionate service to them?
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