One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’ —this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Who was this itinerant rabbi, with no education, going around teaching people?
I’m a scribe. I’m an expert on the law. I’ve studied and understand all 613 commandments of the Torah. You can’t learn this in a backwater town like Nazareth.
So I went to see this Jesus.
I asked him a question I was pretty sure no country bumpkin could answer: “Which is the first of all the commandments?”
He looked at me, with his piercing eyes—he seemed to be looking right into my soul. In a calm voice, he explained in two sentences the law of love.
I was flabbergasted. I could do nothing more than paraphrase his words, and admit (to my embarrassment) that he was right.
With that same calm voice and piercing gaze, he said: “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” I went home humbled—and yet joyful!
—Barbara Lee is a spiritual director, an Ignatian Volunteer, and the author of God Isn’t Finished With Me Yet: Discovering the Spiritual Graces of Later Life published by Loyola Press
Dear Lord, I have a good education and a lot of life experience—and I can be a know-it-all. Help me to remember that everything I know is your gift, and that what matters is not how much I know but how much I love. Give me a heart on fire with love! Amen.