Lukisan: Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, Rose Time,1862
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 12: 28b-34
You are not far from the kingdom of God
There are so many poverties in this world. India is the one. There is a story from New Delhi about a loving man that helps us to understand this gospel today. This man is called Rajiv. He is an ordinary person and his economy status is standard. He works as employer in a firm. He usually takes the bus to go to the firm. He steps down on the crossroad and walks direct to the firm. During the journey he always meets two children selling newspapers. Day by day he gets acquaintance with them. The usual activities of these two children are after going back from school, they sell newspaper in order to help economy of their parent. These two children of course look so pale and are hungry. So many times they do not eat because at the home there is no food: their father and mother are still working. They eat when their parent are at home. One day Rajiv decides to treat them in good restaurant. They enter in the restaurant and many eyes are staring on them because in that restaurant all is in good clothes but not for these two children. The owner of the restaurant is also surprise for the coming of them. Rajiv calls the waiter and asks their children to order the food which they like. With fear and trembling they order some food. Rajiv smiles to them and make them so comfortable. The food is coming. And Rajiv asks to them to eat. But they are ashamed. Rajiv comforts them. They eat like a starving person. They eat with their hand even though there is spoon and fork because they are so hungry. Rajiv also eats with his hand. In that table, they laugh together, the joy accompanies them. After some moment, these two children stop to eat and make some rest of the food. They ask Rajiv that whether they could take this food for their family. Rajiv says that they should eat this food all and he will order the food for being taken home. Meanwhile in the corner the owner of the restaurant is observing and is seeing sharply the table where Rajiv and children seat. Rajiv calls the waiter for asking the bill. Sooner, the waiter goes back to Rajiv to give the bill. How surprise Rajiv is because when the waiter gives the bill there is no charge only some words: We do not charge any kind act of love. Thank you for your loving act. These words are written by the owner of the restaurant. The owner smiles to Rajiv when he with these two children leaves the restaurant.
Today we hear the dialog between Jesus and a scribe asking which the first of all the commandments is. This question is quite understandable because there are 613 commandments which arrange the Jewish life. The commandments are so tight, complex and very demanding. Then Jesus answers him: “Hear o Israel. The lord our God is Lord alone. You shall love the lord your god with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus respond is actually quoting Shema prayer. Shema is the first of two words of a section of the Torah: Hear O Israel and it is the title of a prayer that serves as a centerpiece of the morning and evening Jewish prayer services. The Shema prayer is proclaimed at least twice daily, in the morning and in the evening. In fact, it is to be taught to their children. Jewish children are taught the Shema as soon as they can learn it. The Shema is to be on the Israelites’ heart. So by quoting the Shema, Jesus stressed that these commandments must be the heart of every Christian; it is the destiny of every follower of him.
The commandments say: love your God and love your neighbors. These commandments are like a medallion with its two sides. It means these commandments create a unity which is impossible to be abolished one another. Each of these commandments embraces one another so that they have reciprocal directions. Therefore if you love God but hate your neighbor means trickery otherwise if you love your neighbor but reject God it means nothing. If you love God, you have to love your neighbor, if you love your neighbor you have to love God.
But how do we love God with all our heart, with all our soul, with our mind? To love God can be expressed by several means which all of them should deliver our mind, our heart and our soul to really love him. First thing is to pray, to read and to contemplate the bible, to attend the mass, to celebrate the sacraments; all of this is the basic thing to love God. Second is to do all his commandments and his words. This is clearly said by Jesus that whoever loves me he will keep my word. The third thing is to seek His will and do His will in our life. We say yes to all his will because the most important thing is not our will but his will. For this reason we reflect our moment in life under the frame of his will. The fourth one is to love the life which includes our neighbor and nature. We must nurture our nature, take care environment, our earth like do not damage the river, the forest, the land, keep clean the river, the garden, to plant trees, to love and to care of the animals like feeding, cleaning your pet, do not harm the animals, feed the wild cat, or dog or bird because nature is God’s design; it is His creation reflecting one of His beauty. We must remember that we are the only species which can destroy the nature or to protect it. Then love your neighbors. To love God means to love neighbors so that what you do to your neighbor you do for God. How much you love your neighbor is equal how much you love God. Love for God is indeed the foundation of all because God is the beginning, center and end of all that exists. That is why to love God is the first commandment. St. Clare of Assisi said: “Love God, serve God because everything is in that”.
How do we love our neighbors as ourselves? Every human is the image of God then we are all family. Our brother and sister are not only based on blood but our brother and sister extend and beyond the blood, race, religion, group. We are brother and sister because we are the image of God. Our love is to help our brother and sister. If we cannot help our neighbor at least we do not hurt them; we do not harm our neighbor by planning and doing wicked things. But this is not enough, being the follower of Jesus must do for the neighbors, he cannot be in passive condition, so we must do the good things to our neighbor like to support them, to listen them, to help them, to give what is his right, to pray for them and to forgive them. Our job is to lift the fallen, to restore the broken, to heal the hurting. We treat everyone with love, kindness and respect. St. Francis de Sales states beautifully: to love our neighbor in charity is to love God in man. Under this frame, we must do the act of love for our neighbors. It is difficult to do but for the love of God I do it. For the love of God then to love my neighbors as myself is real, not an illusion. The Psalm I love you, Lord, my strength, O lord, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer is the spirit and the reason that I am still loving my neighbors as myself. Through the love of God we persevere in good works and we walk in charity and peace for our neighbors. Why do we love our neighbor as ourselves? There are two reasons: The first: naturally everyone must do the best and love for themselves. I love myself, none of us hate for ourselves. This is the nature of human. Truly, our neighbor is the second I, he is my second self. We love our neighbors as ourselves because he is my second self, the second I. What we do to our neighbors we do for ourselves. We love our neighbors because we love ourselves. The second: the neighbors are the manifested God. The face of the neighbor is the real representation of God. We love our neighbors as ourselves because they are the real manifested of God; their face is God’s face. We love our neighbors as ourselves because we love God with all our mind, with our soul, with all our heart. We love our neighbors as ourselves because God so loves us.
These commandments are the greatest. Every commandment which exist and available must be based on these two commandments. Everything from love and back to love which means everything is measured, determined and judged by love. Because love for God and love for neighbors are the greatest commandments so in the final we will be asked and judged by how much love we give to God and to our neighbors.
Religion has a high priest who is the leader and the model for religious community. Then because we are Christian community so our high priest is Jesus Christ. It is shown by the letter of Hebrews. There are three reasons explaining Jesus as our high priest: 1.Jesus is eternal, his priesthood is also eternal so that he can always save those who approach God through him, 2. He is holy, innocent, undefiled and higher than heaven so that he offers sacrifice once for all by offering himself, 3. Jesus is appointed by the word of God. Stating that Jesus is high priest the letter of Hebrews wants to show the novelty which differ from the old religion. The Jesus priesthood is not only in ritual but in action of love: he himself is the sacrifice; he sacrifices himself on the cross to replace the animal sacrifice. For this reason he is the source of universal salvation through his one, all-sufficient sacrifice. This novelty opens the meaning of the greatest commandments and makes it more clearly. Furthermore, as Moses speaking to the Israel, Jesus as high priest has authority for speaking to us about the greatest commandments: “Hear o Christian. The lord our God is Lord alone. You shall love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is you shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Jesus -the high priest- legalizes the love as the true meaning of the religion of Christianity. This legalization is done by Jesus himself on his suffering, his death and his resurrection. Jesus is God, our Lord, our high priest. His suffering, his dying, his resurrection are his love for God and his love for neighbors. His love for God is he does the will of his Father. His love for us is to save us from death as the consequence of our sin. The true religion of Christianity is to love for God and to love for neighbors. The religion of Christianity has been shaped by these two loves: two loves that save the world which is called the love of Christianity. Love of Christianity is a counter love for adulterated love, humanity love rejecting God, militant-fundamentalist religion love which is the challenges nowadays.
These two loves are the soul of Christian life which is anchored in daily life, these starts from simple thing like to smile, to say thank you, to pray before and after eating, etc. It must be practiced in life because these commandments are life, these commandments bring to life. Life carved with love for god and for the neighbors creates sweetness of life because loving for God is like milk and loving for neighbors is like honey. By these loves we live in a land flowing with milk and honey. These loves are worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices because we are in perfection of God’s image. By these two loves we imitate our high priest Jesus Christ.
May day by day we prosper and grow in these two commandments: love for God and love for neighbors in order that we are in straight direction toward the kingdom of God; in order that we are not far from the kingdom of God, in order that we dwelt in a land flowing with milk and honey. “Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today”.
 Quoted from Wikipedia