Commentary on the Gospel of
In today’s Gospel from Mark, the Scribe asks, “which commandment is the first of all?” The two commandments that Jesus references are well known to us. The first is a declaration to the chosen people from Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” Then Jesus adds, “The second is this,” and he quotes Leviticus 19:18: ”You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
With respect to the first declaration, it is not always easy to love God in an emotional context, especially when facing the challenges embedded in our daily struggles in the world. It is important for us to be courageous in acknowledging this in our prayer life and be our true selves with God in our efforts to adhere to this first commandment. Jesus’s answer is elegant in its simplicity but deceptive in the difficulty in our ability to adhere to this ideal. We should pray for the grace to understand what it means to put love, in all its forms, as our highest priority.
One hint as to how we might begin to love God above all else can be found in the “Suscipe” prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola from in his well-known work, the Spiritual Exercises.
Jesus’ answers reveal to us some insight into God’s priorities. God wants us to concentrate on these two tasks more than any other: loving God and loving those around us. It is worth mentioning that by saying, “as yourself,” Jesus also expects us to love ourselves. In our brokenness and possibly our humility we may feel guilty when we try to love ourselves. Jesus clearly implies the contrary intimating that we cannot love others unless we love ourselves first. And God loves us unconditionally even in our brokenness.
Finally, we should always remember, when we are committed to love, we are not far from the kingdom of God.