A simple humorous story, known to many of us, goes thus…
A man, known for his constant habit to smoke cigarettes, came up to an old monk – a sage – and queried to him, “Holy sir, am I allowed to smoke, while I am praying?”
>> The monk was shocked and in much dismay answered, “Most certainly no, young man! How can you ever think of doing so?!”
A few moments later, the man came up again… seeking to justify his habit…and queried once again, “Holy sir, am I allowed to pray, when I am smoking?”
The monk, a bit absent-minded, gave a grin and beamed up to answer, “Most certainly, young man! That is such a noble thing to do!!”
>> When one seeks to justify something in life, one finds any ways and means to get it done!
>> When one wishes to stick to one’s own attitude and agenda, one will find any crooked paths to get them accomplished!
We are often, good in making compromises to let our wishes to slide through…
>> We are often, good in framing excuses to let our desires to be fulfilled…
>> We are often, good in devising justifications to let our inclinations be satisfied…
The Gospel of the Day, however, makes a strong demand in our Christian Life… to do just the opposite…
… avoid making compromises in loving
… avoid creating excuses to escape situations of loving
… being on the forefront, always and at all moments, to render love
… taking the lead, at all places and situations, to live a life of love
The passage begins with the mention of a scribe, who had been watching his fellow-scribes in an argument with the Lord, and feeling impressed with Jesus, coming up to Him with a question…”Which commandment is the first of all” (Mk 12:28)
We are not too sure the motive and the aim of this scribe.
>> As per the versions of the same incident, in St Matthew (Mt 22:35)and St Luke (Lk 10:25), the person posed this question to Jesus, in order to “test him”.
The Markan version is however, silent on this aspect.
But whatever the intention, the scribe most certainly was reflecting a common query that was widespread among the teachers and scholars of the law:
>> Which was the greatest commandment or law?
God had issued the ten commandments to the people of Israel.
>> These laws were intended for the people of Israel to be “distinguished” as the nation of the Lord – chosen from among all other nations of the world.
These laws – simple and direct in nature – were aimed towards demanding a total commitment and loyalty from the part of the people , to the Lord.
However, over time, these uncomplicated laws by which the people of Israel were to live, began to be expanded and extended and expounded.
It resulted in 613 commandments or stipulations:
>> 365 (corresponding to the number of days in a year) of them were negative commandments, as in ” you shall not…”
>> And 248 (corresponding to the number of bones and major organs in the body, as per the Jewish understanding) of them were positive commandments, as in “you shall…”
When the Lord was asked to mention the First of all these commandments, He puts forward the basis and the foundation of all these various laws and stipulations and commandments:
>> ” You shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mk 12: 30)
And ” You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Mk 12: 31)
Note the insistence on the word “all”….
… “all” your heart… feelings, emotions, desires
… “all” your soul… will, choices, decisions
… “all” your mind… reason, knowledge, memory
… “all” your strength… talents, abilities, capacities
The Lord commands and demands a “total” and “complete” loving!
>> He does not permit compromises to let our wishes to slide through…
>> He does not allow framing excuses to let our desires to be fulfilled…
>> He does not consent devising justifications to let our inclinations be satisfied…
He demands an “absolute” and “unadulterated” love!
As Christians, we often…
… seek to find “loopholes” in laws of loving the Lord and our neighbour…
… try to spot “gaps” in commandments which ask to love the Lord and our neighbour…
>> Our selfishness often crops in…
>> Our personal desires often spoil it…
>> Our sinful tendencies often gain an upper hand…
But the insistence of the Lord is clear:
This is the ideal to which we, as Christians are called!
>> If not for this highest ideal, our life as a Christian would cease to have a uniqueness!
>> If not for this loftiest ideal, our life as a Christian would fail to be different from others!
Each of us as Christians are called “to be holy”… “to be set apart”… “to be different”
>> This holiness comes when we seek for the highest ideal…loving God totally and expressing this love wholly to our neighbour.
>> This setting apart comes to fruiting when we seek for the premier ideal…giving to God entirely and articulating this self-giving in humble service of others.
The call is indeed great and very lofty…
>> Are we going to make silly excuses to have our own ways fulfilled?
… or shall we take up the challenge, with the grace of the Lord, to aim for the highest ideal?
God bless! Live Jesus!