30TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
Love your neighbour as yourself
Brilliance could be defined as the unique ability to excel at being genuine and authentic. Jesus proved to be brilliant in this sense when he silenced the Pharisees who intentionally came to trap him by questioning him about the greatest commandment. It is said that the rabbis would among themselves debate on this topic and so it is not surprising that they would pose this question to Jesus.
As a little background, the Old Testament contains 613 commands of which 248 positive precepts in the Torah presented a problem for those who took them to be the revelation of God’s will for Israel. How could anyone keep track of all these precepts? Are some more important than others? One method to solve this problem was when a distinction was drawn between “heavy” or serious commandments like honouring one’s parents (Deut 5:16) and “light” commandments like the law of the bird’s nest (Deut 22:6-7). Both were to be taken seriously, and the reward for observing both was the same. The first reading gives us a sampling of the laws. We find that these laws are really humane.
Jesus’ summing up of the law into just two precepts is perfectly traditional and orthodox. In his answer Jesus combines the two positive commandments in the Torah: “You shall love the Lord your God” (Deut 6:5)… “your neighbour as yourself” (Lev 19:18). The two commandments are inseparable, for one cannot love God without loving every person as a child of God. These two commandments focus on a loving relationship as the basis for interpreting all law and the prophets (cf. 7:12). The originality in Jesus’ answer lies in the combination of these two commandments. The combination of the command to love God and love neighbour is distinctive of the synoptic Jesus. Both Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18 were often quoted in rabbinic ethical discussion, but to bring them together like this as a summary of all the law and the prophets was a brilliantly creative idea of Jesus. In focusing on the two halves of the Ten Commandments (duty to God and duty to our neighbour) it offers a foundation for all our living; and by summing up that duty as love, it goes beyond the specific requirements of the law to the God-like attitude which must underlie them. The two commandments are inseparable. For one cannot love God without loving every person as the child of God. These two commandments focus on a loving relationship as the basis for interpreting all law and the prophets (7:12).
Did Jesus’ summary, mean that his followers could disregard the other 611 precepts of the Torah? At least Matthew did not take it that way. His claim that on these two commandments “hang the whole Law and the Prophets” (22:40) assumes that the whole Law remains in force. Jesus’ love-commandment goes to the root of things and provides a coherent principle for appreciating and observing the other commandments.
With the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70 and the loss of Jewish political control in the land of Israel, the Torah became even more significant in Jewish life than ever before. Matthew saw the love-commandment as giving meaning and direction to the whole Law. He understood the commandment to love God and neighbour as providing a coherent perspective for observing the Law.
–Fr(Dr)Augustine Kanachikuzhy, ssp
Sourece: © sundayliturgy.com