Friday of the Third Week of Lent
The Lord, your God
One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus replied: “The first is this: ‘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 this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’. There is no other commandment greater than these”. The scribe said to him: “Well said, teacher. You are right in saying ‘He is One and there is no other than he’. And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices”. And when Jesus saw that (he) answered with understanding, he said to him: “You are not far from the kingdom of God”. And no one dared to ask him any more questions. Mk 12,28-34
This scribe is a good person, he does not come close to Jesus to try and catch him. On the contrary! Having heard that he had responded well to the sadducees, he addresses to Jesus an easy question, not an argument, as to help him to show his doctrine. It reminds me of the last question during certain university exams – experience which, in truth, I have rarely lived – when the professor, realizing to be in front of a well-prepared student, wants to give him the opportunity to take the honors. For a jewish, the question of what it was the first of the commandments was really easy and in fact Jesus responds well, showing to know the book of the Deuteronomy: “The first is this: Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!”. This response would be sufficient to pass the exam, but he adds that the second commandment, the one on the love to the neighbor, is similar to the first. The first and second commandments are welded together in Jesus, so that the listening and the love in God and the love for the neighbor become a single commandment. It is an essential identification also for our peace of mind, because it allows us to devote time serenely to both the prayer and the attention to others, without taking away anything to the two forms of love, which, instead, feed each other. The scribe welcomes the clarification and, at this point, the exam would be just over, if not for the fact that the roles are reversed; Jesus becomes the teacher and he says to the scribe: “You are not far from the kingdom of God”. What is the small step that he has yet to take to enter the kingdom? It is the recognition, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, of Christ the Lord. We are sorry for the scribe but it also happens to the teachers, sometimes, to find some student who is knowledgeable more than them.