In this time of national governmental investigations, the cooperation between the Sadducees and the Pharisees at the time of Jesus reminds me of the saying that “history repeats itself”. If you recall Jesus had made both the Pharisees and Sadducees look foolish multiple times when they tried to trick Jesus into saying something wrong. First they tried to trick him into saying it wasn’t correct to pay taxes to Rome and then they tried to trick him into agreeing that there wasn’t any life after death when he said. “When God raises people to life … they will be like angels in heaven.” In today’s reading they tried to have Jesus tell them what is the most important Commandment in the Law. As todays Gospel says that one of the Pharisees was an expert in the Jewish Law and he knew there weren’t just 10 commandments, there was 613 additional Jewish Laws contained in the Hebrew Scriptures of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Once again, Jesus didn’t fall into their trap when he told them the 1st Commandment is “Love the Lord with all your heart, soul and mind”, and the 2nd is “You shall love your neighbor as yourself and all the Laws of Moses and the Books of the Prophets are based on these two.”
Now Jesus gave the Pharisees, Sadducees and the whole world that those two Commandments as simple assignment for living our lives, that is Love God and Love Others as we love ourselves. Easier said than done but with God’s help it can be done. In our culture we tend to think of Love as something which is just emotional, sensual and at times, even uncontrollable. To a high degree that is true for Zachary, my Jack Russell friend, and for many dogs. I often remind the residents in the assisted living and memory care facility, Waterford of West Bend, where I have a weekly Mass that Dog spelled back-word is GOD and the love he shows the residents is, to a high degree, is unconditional like God’s love for each of us. That’s just one characteristic of the love we are to have for God and for our neighbor. That sounds easy but when we look at what it means we recognize how difficult it can be.
Just looking at the 1st Commandment which Jesus tells us is, “Loving God with all your heart, soul and mind. The first thing that the 1st Commandment means is that we are to worship only God and not our family, our job and not our possessions. In addition, it means that we are to follow Jesus’ example by offering daily prayers of thanksgiving, praise and petition. Following Jesus example further, our petitions are to include recognizing that we can be gifted with knowing God’s Will along with, be granted the commitment to obey God’s Will and recognize that we are empowered to do all of this by His love for us.
Love of God that mirrors God’s love for us, makes perfect love of neighbor possible as it sets the terms for this love. What are terms of God’s love for us? As we see in todays’ first reading from the Book of Exodus, everyone is to be consider as our neighbor and be treated as our neighbor, that is love them, no matter if there are foreigners, enemies nor even if they aren’t our blood relatives, we are to love them as Jesus loves everyone.
In addition to all the love that God has for each of us and the wisdom and other gifts we are blessed with, we see in our Gospel readings, that his truths don’t change and we are promised true happiness here and forever if we profess his truths and live them to the best of our ability and we don’t need a governmental investigation to prove them to be valid.