October 29, 2017
30th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
The Pharisees were always keen on embarrassing Jesus (Mt 22: 18- 35). A sure way was to lead him to the slippery field of the interpretation of the Law, a very complex subject. The ancient Law was interpreted in multiple and precise precepts, covering even the smallest details. It was never easy to find one’s way out.
The question about the “greatest commandment” always arouse polemics: Do precepts not have the same value? Which are the most important ones?
In chapter 23: 23- 24, Jesus precisely reproaches to the Pharisees their lack of discernment: “Owe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites, you pay tithes of mint, dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier things of the Law: judgment, mercy and fidelity. But these you should have done without neglecting the others. Blind guides who strain out the gnat and swallow the camel!”
In the Sermon on the Mountain (Mt 5: 17- 19), Jesus had already tackled this issue, saying that he did not come to abolish the Law but to accomplish it, in such a way that if anyone transgresses one small commandment would be considered as the smallest in the kingdom of heaven.
After this, Jesus considered some of the great commandments of the Decalogue which he revised in some way, reporting them back to their original meaning and to their initial practice. Thus, he was helping people to understand that, in order to live the Commandments, it was necessary to have a new heart which not only respected the Commandments but would assume their deep logic for life: “You have heard… but I tell you” (Mt 5: 21 – 48). A superior justice exists which we have to live from now on. This justice is not just an external observance, but a continuous giving of oneself (Mt 5: 20).
The question of the master of the Law is precise: “Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” (Mt 22: 36).
Jesus answers in an unquestionable way: the great Commandment is “to love God” (Mt 22: 37- 38, cf Deut 6: 4). Christ goes beyond this: there is a first and greatest commandment: to love God, and the second, similar to the first, is to “love one’s neighbor as oneself” (Mt 22: 39). As if the first commandment was not sufficient, to love God does not say the whole truth about man. Someone who loves God only does not have fullness of life. Why?
Because, as a matter of fact, man’s heart is one, and one is his vocation, that of loving. Thus, if his love is partial, even if its object were God, excluding the love for the brothers, his life also would be partial and unaccomplished. Because love, in itself, true love, if it is love, cannot exclude anyone, but embraces all and unites all. Otherwise, it is just a masked self-love.
Jesus says that the second commandment is similar to the first, because we are not dealing with something else, as there are no two types of love but just one; and love for God is not more noble, more true, more beautiful than love for the neighbor. The love for God is just the first because God comes before all, and because our capacity of loving comes from Him, as a reply to His unilateral and free love. And there is no first without second.
Departing only from those two commandments, together, we can understand, interpret and live all the others. Better: there are no other commandments. There is the first and the second, with their application to life, with all its complexity, of a style of life which has overcome selfishness and which is in continuous exodus out of oneself, in a continuous improving of relationships.
So, the only law is love. Love does not stand near the law, as something additional capable of rendering the law lighter, less tough and less tiring. No! There are no precepts besides love. There is nothing to keep besides love.
A last thing is very interesting: love for the neighbor has, as measure and criterion, one’s love for oneself (Mt 22: 39). This means that we, who often are selfish and self -centered, can make of our love for ourselves our measure of our love for the others.
We are caught off guard. The Lord does not ask us not to love ourselves in order to love the others. But he asks us, given the love which dwells in our hearts, that we remember it when we meet a brother.
Thus every barrier falls, as well as every wall that separates. We enter in an attitude of empathy and compassion where I learn to see the other with the same look as I do at myself.
The first who did this was Jesus Himself: it is in Him, in his flesh, that the two loves, for God and for man, meet, stop being antagonistic and become one and unique mystery of love.