The Pharisees were a religious party that was active in Palestine before and during the time of Jesus’ ministry until around A.D. 70. As keepers of the law, they were very knowledgeable of the commandments and certainly had their favorites. In the Gospel for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matt 22:34-40), Jesus was being questioned by the Pharisees. He had returned to Jerusalem for the last time. A scholar of the law, a scribe, asked this famous question, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus gives a two part answer about love – love of God and love of neighbor. Sounds easy enough, but is it?
Above All: God
The first is to love God above all things. The second is to love your neighbor as yourself. This second commandment raises two questions. First, who is our neighbor? Throughout his ministry Jesus stressed that our neighbor is not just the person who lives next door but anyone who enters into our lives, even if it’s just for a moment. This means that everyone is our neighbor.
Loving Our Neighbor
The second question is “what does loving our neighbor look like and how does that work?” The love we have for our neighbor should be the same love we have for ourselves. Most of us don’t really think too much about loving our self, it’s just something we automatically do. We care about what happens to us; we take care of our self and we want what is best for our self. We want our family, friends and colleagues to treat us with respect and we expect them to be honest and kind. Jesus tells us that we need to do the same, every day, with every person we come into contact with.
If we truly love God with all our heart, all our soul and our mind, then loving our neighbor will come automatically. Imagine our world if we all let these two commandments control our lives. This would be the greatest.