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Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Greatest Commandment

"Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" Mt 22:36

One of the tasks of the great Rabbis was to reduce the entire law and prophets to as few words as possible without losing the power and love of the entire Torah. Jesus’ response to the question: which commandment in the law is the greatest is unique in two ways. First, no other rabbi suggests that love of God and love of neighbor are equally important because love of God is not enough by itself, but neither is love of neighbor sufficient by itself. Prior to Jesus, the rabbis talked about certain prescriptions of the law as heavy or light. Love of neighbor, while important, was considered light, while love of God was considered heavy. Jesus tells his listeners that both love of God and love of neighbor are heavy, that is, vitally important aspects of the Good news as he interprets it.

Jesus also challenges the traditional rabbinic understanding of neighbor. The rabbis taught that while all Israelites deserved love as neighbors, those outside the covenant only merited compassion. Jesus rejects this understanding and  insists that the Torah demands that Jews love everyone as their neighbor. The good news is for all. There are no outsiders in God's love and this remains the challenge for believers today. How we live this command will determine how others understand the Gospel.

Today, ask God for the gift of knowing deep in your heart that God is always with you.

Do you believe and act in a way that convinces others that love of God and love of neighbor are equally important?

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