This Sunday’s Readings:
Psalm 18:2–3, 3–4, 47, 51 (℟ 2)
THE GREAT COMMANDMENT JESUS CITES TODAY IS SO FAMILIAR TO US THAT WE MIGHT MISS THE SERIOUS CONSEQUENCES EXPOSED BY THIS DISCUSSION.
First, throughout Mark’s Gospel, the scribes have been constant antagonists to Jesus’s mission. They test, question, mock, and now, in this chapter, start plotting his arrest. So today, when one of them asks Jesus a question, we can safely presume it’s a trap. But the tone of this conversation in Mark remains mutually respectful and even gracious. Something different is happening here.
Second, to the Shema, the central daily prayer for Jews, Jesus adds Leviticus 19:18, which reads in full: “Take no revenge and cherish no grudge against your own people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” In this context, loving one’s self does not mean inward focused self-care but love of one’s own family. To love your neighbor is to love those outside your immediate circle, those who are unlike you, those you don’t know or trust, those you might even despise.
Third, the scribe does a “yes, and” move, affirming Jesus’s response and building on it by connecting the dual commandment to ritual practice. Without love for God and others, even one’s enemies, liturgical participation, as the scribe rightly said, is worth less.
Now this once-familiar commandment is no longer so simple or so inconsequential.
“For the whole law is fulfilled by a simple command: love your neighbor as you love yourself.”
We have heard these words time and time again. To love our sisters and brothers as much as we love ourselves. Who do we see when we extend the Sign of Peace at mass? Do we really join our hearts with theirs in an expression of community and goodwill? When you look into the eyes of the community you have gathered within the Eucharistic liturgy, do you see the eyes of Christ? Do they see Christ in you? As we go through our daily lives, what if we tried to extend the same sign of peace to our brothers and sisters whose paths we cross every day?
“If I love God, I can love all people. This is my purpose.”
Having a sense of purpose can be conflated with having a long to-do list. This piece reminds us that our purpose is singular yet multiplies in its effects. When we love God, with all our heart, with our soul, with our mind, and with our strength, we will feed hungry children, give shelter to the homeless, be our brother’s keeper, and be companions to the lonely. When we follow the command to love God fully, we are compelled to live the second part of the same law by loving our neighbor fully too.
More choral suggestions for the Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time…
El Amor de Dios / God’s Love Is Everlasting Lourdes Montgomery Two-part choir, cantor, assembly, keyboard, guitar 012649
Glorify Him by Your Life Lorraine Hess SATB, cantor, assembly, keyboard, guitar 007901
God in the Barren Spaces Kathleen M. Basi Two-part mixed choir, keyboard, guitar, C instrument 009007
I Love You, Lord, My Strength: Psalm 18 David L Sanders SATB, cantor, assembly, keyboard 006399
Lord, You Have the Words Ed Bolduc SATB, cantor, assembly, keyboard, guitar 007355
Love Is His Word: Concertato on DEBLASIO Arr. Richard Proulx SATB, descant, cantor, assembly, organ, flute 008677
Teach Me, O Lord David Hurd SATB, organ G-2715
Teach Me, O Lord Peter Moger SAB, keyboard G-4201
Teach Me, O Lord Thomas Attwood SATB, organ G-3045
The Word of God Is Source and Seed Delores Dufner, OSB & Paul Inwood SAB, cantor, keyboard, guitar, C instrument 009004