The Greatest Gift
The Pharisees were a religious party that was active in Palestine before and during the time of Jesus’ ministry, until around A.D. 70. As keepers of the law, they were very knowledgeable of the commandments and certainly had their favorites.
In the Gospel for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matt 22:34-40), Jesus had returned to Jerusalem for the last time and he was being questioned by the Pharisees. A scholar of the law, a scribe, asked this famous question, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus gave a two-part answer about love – love of God and love of neighbor. Sounds easy enough, but is it? The first is to love God above all things. The second is to love your neighbor as you love yourself.
Love Your Neighbor
This second commandment raises two questions. First, who is our neighbor? Jesus taught that our neighbor is not just the person who lives next door but anyone who enters our lives, even if just for a moment. The second question is “what does loving our neighbor look like and how does that work?” The love we have for our neighbor should be the same love we have for ourselves.
Most of us don’t think much about loving our self, it’s something we do automatically. We care about what happens to us; we take care of our self and want what is best for our self. We want our family, friends and colleagues to respect us and we expect them to be honest and kind. We need to do the same with every person we meet. In loving God with all our heart, soul and mind, loving our neighbor will come automatic. Imagine our world if we all let these two commandments control our lives. That would be the greatest.