One of the untrue and biased things we Catholics used to hear was that the Old Testament (and the Jewish religion of Jesus’ day) was based on law, while the New Testament was based on love. In today’s Gospel, Jesus answers this question: Which is the greatest commandment? Jewish rabbis had identified 613 laws or precepts and suggested different ways of organizing them, like grouping them into serious obligations and lesser ones, for example. Jesus quotes Hebrew Scripture itself as he provides a different way of summarizing Jewish law. He presents the central core that unites all these laws — love of God and neighbor. The first commandment to … love the Lord with your whole heart, soul, and mind is from Deut 6:5. It is part of the Shema, a short devotional prayer that observant Jews say six times a day. The second commandment is on par with the first: You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18). As we go through life, part of our spiritual task is to keep these two commandments balanced. Loving our neighbor can get pretty engrossing, and it can eat up all our time and attention. Jesus, as a busy and popular preacher, faced that problem too. He often solved it by going off alone, away from the crowds, to pray. Sometimes it also happens that giving time to our church, to our private devotions and church services can also become too engrossing, and we neglect our other relationships and the need to take action for the sake of others. So this week is a good time to look at our God and neighbor love life to see where better balance is needed!
– Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia