Friday of the Third Week in Ordinary Time
(Hosea 14:2-10; Mark 12:28-34)
Preachers have long noted that the first tablet of the Ten Commandments deals with love of God, Jesus’ first commandment, and the second with love of neighbor, Jesus’ second commandment. Some interpreters have tried to equate the two or even substitute one for the other. These efforts inevitably result in folly.
Attempting to love one’s neighbor without first loving God is like trying to balance a plate without a center on a stick. Humans disappoint one another causing one to compromise her commitments. The universal failure of Communism provides ample proof of this. Moved by the love of God, however, one can maintain her love for others despite indifference and even deception.
The First Letter of John bluntly proclaims the absurdity of trying to love God without loving one’s neighbor. “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar” (I John 4:20). God, the Father of all, requires us to love His image in all His children.
The scribe in the gospel story wins Jesus’ approval because he correctly reinterprets the Ten Commandments. But Jesus makes a reservation. He says only that the scribe is “not far from the Kingdom of God.” In order to place himself squarely within that realm, the scribe must put his insight into practice.