Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature Sunday, 4th November 2018
Gospel: Mark 12:28b-34
When Jesus began His missionary activity, the doctors in Jerusalem even went to Galilee to observe Him. They were disturbed by Jesus’ preaching. Now, in Jerusalem, they again start arguing with Jesus. 
Just before the doctors put the question to Jesus, Jesus had had a discussion with the Sadducees on the matter of faith in the resurrection. The doctor of the law, who was present at the discussion, liked Jesus’ reply, and realized that He was someone very intelligent, so he makes most of the occasion and asks a question of his own for clarification: “Which is the greatest of all the commandments?” In those days, the Jews had very many laws to regulate the practice of the observance of the Ten Commandments of the Law of God. The doctor wants to know Jesus’ opinion: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” This matter was hotly debated in those days.
Jesus replies by quoting from the Bible, which says the first commandment is “you must love God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength!”. These words formed part of a prayer called the Shemá. In Jesus’ days, the Jews recited this prayer twice a day: in the morning and in the evening. It was as well known to them as the Our Father is to us today. Then Jesus adds, still quoting the bible: “The second is this: ‘You will love your neighbor as yourself’”.
 A short and very deep answer! It is a summary of all that Jesus taught about God and life (Mt 7:12).
The doctor agrees with Jesus: the commandment of love is more important than all the commandments that have to do with cult or sacrifices in the Temple. This statement comes from the prophets of the Old Testament. Today we would say: the practice of love is more important than novenas, vows, Masses, prayers and processions. Or rather, novenas, vows, Masses, prayers and processions must be the result of the practice of love and must lead to love. This a fine and subtle distinction, and worthy of reflection.
Jesus affirms the conclusion drawn by the doctor and says, “You are not far from the Kingdom!” Indeed, the Kingdom of God consists in recognizing that the love of God and neighbor are the most important things. If God is Father, then we all are brothers and sisters and we must show this in practice by living as a community. “On these two commandments hang the law and the Prophets!”. Jesus’ disciples must engrave this great law on their memory, their intellect, their heart: only thus can we attain God in the total gift of self to the neighbor!
St John of Avila writes at the beginning of his Treatise on the Love of God: “the cause”, he says, “that mostly pushes our hearts to love of God is considering deeply the love that He had for us.... This, beyond any benefit, pushes the heart to love; because he who gives something of benefit to another, gives him something he possesses; but he who loves, gives himself with everything he has, until he has nothing left to give”.