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The Greatest Commandment
Good Distinctions - In Imitation of Jesus
Sometimes, it seems that we can get stuck into a way of thinking which tends to one extreme or another. Teresa and Will had this conversation when they spoke about virtue and avoiding excess or deficiency as we act. This can be a difficult balance to have, but here at Good Distinctions, we are all about… well… good distinctions.
Good Distinctions are the spice of life! And do you know who else thought so? That’s right, the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ!
The Pharisees heard that Jesus had answered the questions of the Sadducees with such effect that they stopped trying to entrap him. Now, they intended to step in and confound Him. They had no idea what they were in for.
“When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’ He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.’“ - Matthew 22:34-40
The Pharisees mockingly referred to Jesus as Teacher (Rabboni) and asked Him this question to test Him. The Latin Vulgate text is perhaps rendered better by the moniker “Master.” They were hateful and jealous of the Lord and wanted to trap Him in a bad answer. Or perhaps they cynically wanted to see if He possessed the kind of knowledge and wisdom which He was acclaimed to have.
We have to recall that the Mosaic Law contained 613 laws, all of which were to be scrupulously kept, according to the Pharisees. And so, if Jesus answered that only one of the commandments was the greatest, then they would say, “Aha! See! He is a false teacher.” And if He said they were all important, then they would say, “See! He is no great teacher. He cannot offer us a straight answer.” Instead, what Jesus does is summarizes all of the Law AND the Prophets (which goes beyond the original question) in the twofold commandment of loving God and loving neighbor.
Now, we are not the Incarnate Word of God. We are not Wisdom Himself. But, we are made in the image and likeness of God and endowed with intellect and will. Further, if we are baptized, we are coheirs with Christ and adopted sons and daughters of the Father with the Holy Spirit dwelling within us as in a Temple.
By taking the time to use our God-given rational abilities, we can seek to make good distinctions, in imitation of our Blessed Lord. All the while, we must seek to follow the two great commandments of loving God and neighbor.
God loves you and me. He desires to spend eternity with us. He is never trying to trick. If we are questioned by those trying to entrap us, we must pray for wisdom and then speak, seeking to make the best distinctions possible. Woe to us if we do not speak when God prompts us to do so.
Lord Jesus, you are the way, the truth, and the life. Give us an ever-greater share of your wisdom. Holy Spirit, come; enflame our hearts and guide us into all truth, to the glory of the Father. May we make good distinctions which are at the service of following the two greatest commandments: of loving you, dear Lord, and loving our neighbor as ourself. Amen.