Immersed in Christ: June 4, 2020
Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time
The last question Mark tells us Jesus is asked before his passion may have been sincere rather than hostile. At least the questioner responds to Jesus’ answer, which the Pharisees never do. And Jesus tells him “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
The question sets up a great conclusion to Jesus’ teaching. A scribe asks him, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” He may have been thinking in terms of the first in a series, but Jesus isn’t. Just as God is not the first and highest in a series of gods, but the One and All transcendently above everything created, so there is no graded series of responses we can make to God, one higher or better than the other. To the One God there is only one acceptable response, and Jesus declares it: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”
This is about the only moral teaching Jesus gives in Mark. He really did not make any “rules” as we understand rules. His most radical demands — to “sell all,” lose life in order to find it, reject power and prestige — are simply the Great Commandment translated into practical choices. In his teaching on divorce, for example, he is just matching the ideal of monogamous marriage to “the image of a monotheistic God.” That is Benedict XVI’s insight. “Marriage based on exclusive and definitive love becomes the icon of the relationship between God and his people... God's way of loving becomes the measure of human love” (God Is Love, no. 11, 2005).
John Paul II says Christ’s invitation “Come, follow me” is “the new, specific form” of living out the Great Commandment that gives it a human “how.” And the invitation, “Go, sell your possessions and give the money to the poor” simply “brings out the full meaning of the commandment of love for neighbor” (The Splendor of Truth, nos. 18-21; see Monday, Week 8).
Jesus’ “second” commandment is simple: all we have and are should be at the service of others, just as “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Jesus “broke” the law by touching lepers, eating with sinners and healing on the Sabbath to show that we misunderstand God’s laws unless we see their goal as helping people.
That is the Good News about morality. It is rooted in the mystery of sharing in the life of Christ. By dying and rising with him in Baptism.
Initiative: Simplify your life. Just focus on loving God and others in all you do.