MATTHEW 22: 34 – 40

Today’s reading comes from Book Five of Matthew’s Gospel.  Early in chapter 19, we hear the rich young man asking Jesus, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus will spend a lot of time answering this question.  Listen again to this question.  How do you respond to it? 

The second theme in this book is all about how the Scribes, Pharisees, Priests and Sadducees responded to Jesus’ teaching.  Again and again, we find them in conflict with Jesus’ teaching.  Where do you stand?

The first problem with the question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, is that an inheritance is a gift freely given.  What do you understand eternal life means?  We are already in eternal life. There will never be a time when we will no longer exist.  God wants us to be the best people that we can possibly be.  God wants us to embrace our greatness, our wholeness. This is eternal life now on earth and later in union with our God.

Frequently, Jesus is in conflict with the authorities. 

34 When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a scholar of the law tested him by asking,
36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?”

37 He said to him, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.  38 This is the greatest and the first commandment.

39 The second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. 40 The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”

Take note that it is you who is being addressed, seven times, so pay attention.  Note the contrast between Jesus and those opposing him.  Jesus presents two commandments.  This is not new!

“Take to heart these words I address to you today. The Lord is your God.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deut 6: 5)  “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.  I am the Lord.” (Lev 19: 18)  This is all we have to do.

Jesus’ opponents had a total of 613 commandments, 248 you shall, 365 you shall not.

Last Sunday we were told, “Give to God what is God’s”, this Sunday we are told to get our priorities right.

This passage traces our journey to wholeness as a movement from a solid foundation (the greatest commandment) which leads to three consequences.  The foundation is to put God in the first place, laying claim to our whole selves (heart, soul and mind).  Once the foundation is set, three things fall into place: The Neighbour, Ourselves and the Law and the Prophets.

We are called to wholeness, holiness.

Lord help us to be simple and uncompromising, like Jesus, showing that loving others is the same a worshipping you as well as the only way of loving ourselves and that all laws and prophets must fall into line with this teaching. (M De Verteuil)