Grace to you!
The U.S. tax code drives me crazy. After many years of paying taxes, I am yet to figure it out. I guess many other Americans seem to have similar concerns.
The stress connected with understanding the voluminous U.S. tax code could be comparable to the complex Jewish code of religious worship, expatiated from the Law and the prophets, as interpreted by the Scribes in the Old Testament. These laws were so numerous it would take a good student over one year to read them through, and hopefully digest the contents. Even so, how could one remember over 1000 rules and regulations, plus new ones added from time to time based on new interpretations of the expert rabbis? It was simply cumbersome, if not impossible for many.
Guess what? A true Jew is expected to know all these laws. For the Pharisees, a true Jew must also have to keep them all or be considered not faithful, because the Pharisees kept to strict observance of the law.
A Scribe (scribes are experts of the law) watched how Jesus answered questions thrown at him very intelligently. Hence, he wanted to test Jesus’ knowledge of the Law by asking, “Which is the first commandment?”
Jesus answered it was the love of God (Deut 6:4) and goes ahead to connect this love of God with love of neighbor. “The Second” Jesus said, is “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk 12:31) quoting Leviticus 19:18. The Scribe must have been speechless that Jesus gave as perfect an answer as would have come from experts like the Scribes.
The Lord reminds us, of all the laws, the most important is “love of God” and the second is, “love one another.” One connects us with God. It’s vertical. The other connects us with one another. It’s horizontal because a true love of God must express the love of neighbor as well, and vice versa. Love of God without love of neighbor doesn’t seem to be the love God prescribes. As St. John reminded us, how can we say we love God, whom we cannot see, when we don’t love our brother whom we can see? (See I Jn 4:20)
Remember this love we are speaking of isn’t mere sensual, sentimental or feelings of affection. It’s the gift (grace), which disposes, equips us to sacrifice for God and for one another. It’s called Agape—Self- Sacrificing Love. It’s the love which sees everyone as a child of God and relates to them as such. It is this love the Lord invites us to think about this Lent as we ask for the grace to perfect in it.
How I wish from the heart and soul of believers throughout the world, this love—Agape, would flow and flourish like lilies of the valley, soothing the hearts of the unloved, drawing the abandoned close to a place they can call home, encouraging the despondent, and bringing solace to the sad, peace to warring peoples, joy to the sad, hope to the despondent, and freedom to those under the shackles of un-freedom. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Friday, Lent Week 3: Hos. 14:2-10; Mk. 12: 28-34]
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.