From Sabine Schwartz, Catholic Chaplain:
In today’s Gospel we find Jesus once again being interrogated by his adversaries, this time by the Pharisees, and this time they are asking him a question very much on their own territory: ‘Which is the greatest commandment of the Law’?
When we hear the word ‘Pharisee’ nowadays, it is very likely that the first thing we think of is ‘hypocrite’; however, this is a caricature. The Pharisees in Jesus’ time were basically good people, who strove for holiness and faithfulness and cared deeply about their faith. For them, the best way to serve God was by keeping themselves as ‘pure’ and perfect as possible and observing the many commandments of the Mosaic Law to the letter. So, commandments mattered deeply to them.
Jesus’ answer is one we know well, and one that nobody could possibly argue with: ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind… You must love your neighbour as yourself.
Until not so long ago, I used to hate and resent this gospel passage, feeling that Jesus was demanding the impossible. Surely you can’t command ‘love’? And of how to love totally, with all my heart, mind and soul, I had (and still have) no idea.
I wonder whether some of the Pharisees Jesus was talking to reacted in a similar way. If so, it would have been for the same reason: trying to be ‘perfect’ to God’s standard, but out of my own strength.
What if I allowed God first to love me as I am now, with all that currently occupies my heart, my mind and my soul – including those bits that I’m most ashamed of? Maybe the ‘Great Commandment’ would stop sounding like a demand and begin to feel like a promise.