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?”
Jesus answered, “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.
In today’s gospel reading we see a teacher of the law (or a scribe as these were called) ask Jesus to point out to him what is the first (that is, the most important) of all commandments. But as a professional authority on the law, was he not supposed to know that? What was the problem?
Surprisingly, at the time of Jesus there was no consensus on the matter. Questions concerning the “lighter” and the “heavier” of the 613 commandments of the law (248 precepts and 365 prohibitions) were frequently discussed among the rabbis, and various answers were given. The need for synthesis and for some guidelines had long been felt: David reduces the commandments to 11 main ones (Ps 15:2-5), Isaiah to 6 (Is 33:15), Micah to 3 (Mi 6:8), etc.
In his reply Jesus quotes Dt 6:4-5, which forms the beginning of the prayer which every pious Jew must recite every morning and evening. The second greatest commandment is a quote from Lv 19:18.
What is the most important thing in life? According to Jesus, it is to love. Now is love my real priority in life? How do I love my neighbor as myself? By applying the Golden Rule (Mt 7:12) and treating him or her as I myself would want to be treated.
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