I wonder what the Scribe in today’s Gospel thought Jesus was going to say in response to his question, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Perhaps he thought Jesus was going to say something “new.” But, in his response, Jesus reminds him that love, first of God and then of neighbor, is at the heart of God’s commandments. It always was and it always will be. The Scribe praises Jesus’ answer. Jesus tells the Scribe that, because he understands this important truth, he is not far from the Kingdom of God.
What about us? What do we think is the most important of all the commandments? Do we understand, as does the Scribe in the Gospel, that love is at the heart of the Gospel? Of course we do…!
The first reading for today is from the prophet Hosea. He speaks of God’s commitment to forgive Israel and Ephraim, i.e., God’s people who have been so unfaithful. Throughout these first weeks of Lent we have had readings from various prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel), assuring us of God’s constant forgiveness for the many sins of idolatry and injustice committed by God’s people. It would seem that knowing the first of all the commandments doesn’t’ guarantee that we live it.
This message of the prophets is very reassuring for us as we try to live what we know is true, that love is the heart of the Gospel, and of God. We pray that during this holy season, God transforms our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh so that we can live in God’s love.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director retreats at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.