The Gospel according to Matthew (Matthew 22:34-40)
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Opening Prayer: Dear Lord, I invite you into my heart today. Teach me the way to love. Teach me to love serving you and following your law. Help me to move from a spirituality that is focused only on commandments to one which is focused on loving you. Help me to move away from doing the least required of me, to wanting to give above and beyond the minimum, because I love you.
Encountering Christ: It is Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees who came to test Jesus. Prior to this, a group of Sadducees tried to trap Jesus and failed. So now it was the Pharisees who gave it their best shot to trap our Lord. Of course, Jesus’ answer was perfect. And upon the conclusion of this answer, Jesus returned the favor by asking the Pharisees some questions that they could not answer, and they dared not ask Him any further questions at that time.
Sometimes, being challenged by another in matters of faith helps us, in that it allows us to clarify what we actually believe. Though Jesus did not need clarity for His own sake, He did offer this clarity in the face of trickery so as to help both the Pharisees as well as His followers who were listening attentively.
Have you ever been challenged by another about matters of faith? If so, what was your response? Were you able to respond by the inspiration and clarity given by the Holy Spirit? Or did you walk away confused and unable to respond? Having our faith challenged by another will either result in our own confusion or in our deeper understanding.
By answering this question in the way that Jesus did, He presented the entire Law given by Moses in the Ten Commandments in a new and summarized way. The first three of the Ten Commandments have to do with love of God, and the last seven have to do with love of neighbor. The second commandment Jesus gives, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” is a consequence of the first commandment. How do you “love yourself?” You do so by fulfilling the first commandment Jesus gave: “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” When God is loved above all, then loving your neighbor simply means that you love God Who dwells within your neighbor in accord with the way God loves them.
Love of neighbor, at times, especially when the “neighbor” is a family member who has turned from God, can be challenging. But when it is, think about the way that the Sadducees and Pharisees tried to constantly trap Jesus. He always gave the perfect response of love and never allowed their misguided conversation to leave confusion. So with us, we must rely upon the wisdom and love of God when loving another is difficult. God must guide our every conversation in that case so that the other knows they are loved and so that our love does not deviate from the pure love of God.
Closing Prayer: Lord, help me as I look at my own life to examine where I stand in my love for you and my love for my neighbor. Where have I been holding back, trying to do the bare minimum? Give me the strength to break free and begin loving you with magnanimity.
Action: Lord, today by your grace I will pray for an extra ten minutes today as my gift to you.