March 17, 2023

One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?”

Our story ends a series of discussions between Jesus and various leaders residing in Jerusalem, which began in Mark 11:27. This discussion ends, as today’s gospel passage notes, with Mark telling us that after this encounter, “no one dared to ask him any questions” (Mark 12:34).

It is possible that neither Jew — Jesus nor the legal expert — could imagine one kind of love without the other. However, part of the shock of this story was the agreement of the Jerusalem scribe. (Matthew disregards this agreement altogether. In Luke’s parallel, Jesus tells the parable of the “kind Samaritan” to give more specific meaning to the term “neighbor.”) Throughout Mark’s Gospel, the scribes always evaluated Jesus’ activities – and found them wanting. But this one individual scribe decided to engage Jesus. Furthermore, the scribe took it one step further than Jesus by adding that this kind of love was “more important than sacrifices.”

Stories like this should drive us to become more willing to open up to others, including the people within our religious tradition. With Jesus, at least, may we be able to admit that these people of faith are also “not far from the kingdom.” Can we go beyond Jesus and discover in our fellow companions of faith people who are “in” the kingdom that their religious commitments allow them to share in God’s love for the world? For many of us in the contemporary world, love for our neighbor should coincide with respect for our neighbor’s belief system (or lack thereof). Through this respect for our neighbor, we carry out the mission of human dignity, which, in turn, represents a love for the God of Jesus.

Let Us Pray:

O loving Jesus, help me to realize that the measure of how much I truly love God lies in how much I love my neighbor.


Eucharistic Reflection – Center for Eucharistic Evangelizing (eucharisticevangelizing.com)
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About Paul J. Bernier, SSS

Blessed Sacrament Father Paul J. Bernier served for many years as the editor of Emmanuel. He is a popular writer, preacher, and director of retreats. Among his many published works is Ministry in the Church: A Historical and Pastoral Approach, Second Edition, published by Orbis Books in 2015. His most recent book is A Eucharistic Spirituality: Inspired by Saint Peter Julian Eymard – Apostle of the Eucharist, which he co-authored with Jim Brown.