Mk 12:28-34: The Greatest Commandment

Stephen E. Robinson once said, “The heart and soul of the gospel is love, and all the rest is commentary. Whatever else we may perceive religion to be, we are wrong—for true religion is love in action—God’s love for us and our love for God and for our neighbors.” (Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News, 125.)

This is the same message Jesus wishes to tell us in the Gospel reading for the day: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind” (Mk 12:30). “And your neighbor as yourself”  (Lk 10:27) is the first and most important. The two-fold commandment of love is the resume, condensation and fulfillment of all the laws of Moses and all the teachings of the prophets. In it all the other commandments are included and made one. Indeed, charity expresses all, contains all, and crowns all.

St Jerome hands down a tradition concerning the last years of St John’s life: when he was already a very old man, he used always say the same thing to the faithful: “My children, love one another!” On one occasion, he was asked why he insisted on this: “to which he replied with these words worthy of John: ‘Because it is the Lord’s commandment, and if you keep just this commandment, it will suffice”‘ (“Comm. in Gal.”, III, 6, 10).

What are some of the implications of the two-fold commandment of love in our Christian faith and life?

First, it teaches us that the best distinguishing mark of what a Christian should be is charity. Every Christian must be convinced that God has first loved him or her and in return should also love God and His people. “The man without love has known nothing of God, for God is love” (1 Jn 4:12).

Charity, therefore, is the sure mark of Christian, the way to recognize the genuine disciple of Jesus. “Charity is the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God” (CCC 1822).

Second, it teaches us that “Charity is the soul of the holiness to which all are called: it “governs, shapes, and perfects all the means of sanctification” (LG 42)” and the perfection of Christian life consists fundamentally in charity and that the soul of holiness is charity. Why? Because love, as the bond of perfection and fullness of the law (cf. Col 3:14, Rom. 13:10), governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of sanctification. As St. Paul said: “He who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love you neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rm 13:8-10).

Apart from love no sacrifice, no offering, no worship, no conduct are holy, pleasing and acceptable to the Lord  because the perfection of the Christian life consists principally and essentially in charity. It is the foundation, center and the summit of Christian life.

Third, it teaches us that charity is the sure route to salvation.  “At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love” (St. John of the Cross, Dichos 64). We will be judged on the degree and quality of our love (cf. St. John of the Cross, “Spiritual Sentences and Maxims”, 57).

In the end, what really matters or decisive is how do we answer to the question of Christ: “What did you do to the least brethren of mine? Blessed are you when you “fed the hungry Christ, gave drink to the thirsty Christ, received the homeless Christ, clothed the naked Christ and visited the sick and the imprisoned Christ” (Mother Teresa of Calcutta) for Jesus will say:  “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brethren of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).

In sum, “Charity is the greatest of all gifts, a sure route to holiness and salvation, and the identifying mark of the Christian: “the first and most necessary gift is charity, by which we love God above all things and our neighbor because of him. […] This is because love, as the bond of perfection and fullness of the law (cf. Col 3:14, Rom. 13:10), governs, gives meaning to, and perfects all the means of sanctification. Hence the true disciple of Christ is marked by love both of God and of his neighbor” (Vatican II, “Lumen Gentium”, 42).

The man without love is like “a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1) and has known nothing of God for God is love (see cf. 1 Jn 4:7f). The one who has no love for his brother or sister he has seen cannot love God he has not seen. He is a liar because whoever loves God must also love his brother” (see 1 Jn 4:19-21). As Christ has loved us let us, therefore, love one another because love is of God; everyone who loves is begotten of God and has knowledge of God.

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  1. #1 by Matthew Perri on August 13, 2014 - 3:54 am

    Which is the most important?
    Jesus was asked twice, by two different men, the same basic question about which is the most important or greatest commandment in the Law. Here is how Jesus answered that question:

    #1
    “One of the teachers of the law… asked him [Jesus],
    ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’

    “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “ is this: ‘Hear, of Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 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: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than THESE.” [Mark 12:28-31, Deuteronomy 6:4-5, Leviticus 19:18]

    #2
    …an expert in the law, tested him [Jesus] with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’”

    Jesus replied: “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.” [Matthew 22:36-40, Deuteronomy 6:5, Leviticus 19:18]

    But in contrast with Jesus, Paul the Pharisee didn’t know the greatest, most important, first commandment according to Jesus. Paul made up his own rule. Paul wrote:
    “The entire law is summed up in a SINGLE command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” [Galatians 5:14, Leviticus 19:18]

    And again, Paul wrote:
    “He who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not covet, and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this ONE RULE: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Romans 13:8-10, Leviticus 19:18]

    Jesus said it’s TWO commandments, with the greatest, most important, first command to
    .1) first, love God with everything you’ve got, and
    .2) second, love people.
    Paul said no, it ONE commandment- to love people.

    This is very similar to The Beatles- “All you need is love. Love is all you need. Love, Love, Love.” (In other words, the second commandment, the love of man, without the love of God. Love as me, myself and I define love to be, and continuously redefined by sinful men.)

    In essence, it is also the same principle as what Eve did in the Garden of Eden, forgetting about the Tree of Life, which is the first tree in the middle of the Garden, and instead referring to the second tree as “the tree that is in the middle of the garden.” [Genesis 3:3 & 2:9 2:17, 3:24]

    Kind of like the Pharisees with Jesus, who were pushing the false idea that we can consider ONE commandment in the Law, alone in isolation, to be “the greatest commandment in the Law.”

    Or like today, false teachers in the Chrislam – Purpose Driven – Seeker Sensitive – Emergent – Liberal – Ecumenical – New Age – world church movement pushing the false idea that the ONE RULE is “Loving God and Neighbor together.”

    The Lord God Jesus the Jewish Messiah, Son of Yahweh the Most High God of Israel, said:
    “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these TWO commandments.”
    Not one. TWO.

    Sometimes, Paul was wrong. Jesus is always right. I’m following Jesus.

    Here are answers to 2 common objections:
    .a) What about the so-called “Golden Rule”?
    Jesus spoke the 3 chapters of the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5-7, including 7:12. Jesus didn’t make PART of this one verse out of context into “The Golden Rule” or “one rule.” Jesus did not use the term “Golden Rule,” it’s simply a tradition of men. The sentence begins with “So” in the NIV and Amplified Bibles, and “Therefore’ in the NASB and King James Bibles, which ties 7:12 to the previous sentences. So 7:12 cannot stand alone as One Commandment.

    .b) What about the so-called “Great Commission”?
    Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 28:18-20, including “make disciples of all nations.” Jesus never used the term “Great Commission,” it’s simply a tradition of men. Yes I agree it’s a commandment given by Jesus, it’s not optional, and it applies to us today. We need to carry this out, with our own God-given abilities and talents, using the skills, and circumstances we have. But we don’t need to put words in the mouth of Jesus, we can let Jesus speak for himself, and we can listen to Him – and obey Him.

    Evangelism is part of the Second Commandment given by Jesus, to Love people. Evangelism is not the most important commandment, and it isn’t the entire Second Commandment. So if our priorities are “The Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” we have our priorities upside down and confused, and we are not listening to the voice of Jesus. Never mind what Paul said. Let’s listen to the voice of Jesus first, and get our priorities straight.

    The people who will protest most loudly against this truth are the modern “Pauls:” traveling evangelists, speakers, writers, abusive absentee mega-church pastors, Crusaders, and self-appointed “apostles” like Paul, who find it “profitable” to “be like Paul” rather than follow Jesus the Jewish Messiah.

  2. #2 by Matthew Perri on March 19, 2016 - 4:36 am

    Poem – What is love?

    Two men came to Jesus
    With different motivations.
    They asked Him the same question
    Relevant to all the nations:

    Which is the Most Important?
    The answer was the same.
    Jesus did not manipulate
    He was not there to play a game.

    “Love the Lord your God” said Jesus
    as He quoted from The Law –
    to fulfill and not abolish
    was His purpose, full of awe.

    Jesus did not make all Scripture
    Into one new great commandment.
    He summarized The Law and Prophets
    “First and Greatest” and “The Second.”

    The Love of God is higher
    Than the love of any man.
    Receive from God, give back to God-
    Then to others, that’s His plan.

    The Love of God involves much more
    Than simply “love your fellow man.”
    Worship, trust, and pray to God,
    and obey Him – that’s His plan

    To worship and pray to neighbors,
    Whoever they may be,
    Or trust and obey our enemies
    Would be idolatry.

    The love of God is first and greatest,
    And the love of man is second.
    “All we need is love” are words
    of dead Beetles on the pavement.

    “The entire law is summed up in a single command”
    are not the words of Jesus our Salvation.
    It’s false teaching of Paul the Pharisee
    an “accuser of our brethren.”

    “Love” without God is Satan’s word through Paul
    in his chapter to the Corinthians.
    “I will show you the most excellent way”
    is the road to eternal perdition.

    Where is God in Paul’s chapter on love?
    Nowhere in view of the eye.
    Paul sings about himself like a Mexican Mariachi
    “I, I, I, I.”

    Jesus is The Most Excellent Way
    Not the words of a Pharisee.
    The words of Jesus are very clear.
    Jesus said, “You must follow ME.”

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