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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

The Greatest of the Commandments

"There is no other commandment greater than these."

(Mark 12:31 NKJV)

In the chaos of prescriptions and decrees of Judaism, some doctors of the Law were tormented in search of which was the first commandment (Matthew 22:34-40), the greatest, the one which, if observed, would guarantee eternal life (Luke 10: 25-28). The research also intended to find a compendium of the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 22:40), the countless precepts assigned. The Talmud, in fact, declares that through Moses 613 commandments were given, 365 negative (the number of days of the year) and 248 positive (the number of the members of the human body); then came King David who brought them to 11 (Psalm 15); Isaiah reduced them to 6 (33:15-16); Micah brought them to 3, (Micah 6:8); again Isaiah at 2 (56:1): "Keep justice, and do righteousness"; finally Habakkuk reduced them to one: "The just shall live by his faith" (2:4). Now a scribe, who knows the Scriptures, goes to Jesus and asks him the question. I dare not imagine what led him to turn to the Master, if it were only personal doubts or if something had happened that was undermining his historical faith. What matters to him is that he finds the way and the courage to come forward, because rather than letting himself be eaten by doubts, it is always better to ask questions. No questions will be of little importance or little interest. For every question there will always be an answer.

Jesus started from the beginning, that is, from the Law, and reminded his interlocutor that the greatest and first of the commandments was "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.This is the first and great commandment" (Matthew 22:37-38). Subsequently the apostle Paul, as a Jew, accepts the Talmudic tradition of the righteous who will live by faith (Romans 1:17), but believes that faith is entering into the logic of God's plan of love, so he writes: “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,”“You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law" (Romans 13:9-10). Love your neighbor as yourself. Nothing is more difficult than that. Yet the example of the Master is clear, who has made himself in solidarity with us to the end, to the point of death. Looking to him, the Christian is called to be close (Luke 10:29-37) to those in pain and suffering.

Love for one's neighbor, which some also call "fraternal charity", does not require who knows what gigantic actions, it is not a language that feeds on words, but is made up of small gestures capable of communicating one's presence to those in the need: a closeness, even a silent one; an aptitude to lend more the ear than the shoulder, that is, the willingness to listen; when necessary, sharing what you have. Everything that is able to ensure a cure for the other. At every social level and in whatever position we find ourselves, there will always be a neighbor in front of or beside us. Keeping this in mind and clear in your mind could make the world a better place. But things are different, unfortunately. A terrible widespread belief is that nothing irreparable will ever happen, which causes nefarious gestures to be made. And it is obvious that if there is a minimum of interest, there can no longer be the love that God requires, since to love means to give (to give) without expecting anything in return. Far from it. Usually, the more loved you are, the more you betray and hurt you. If one has faith he cannot help but love, because it is faith itself that animates the actions themselves, and each of it will say whether we have love or not.

The apostles exhort us to love each other intensely, from the heart. The new commandment of mutual love will become a distinctive element of the disciples (John 13:34), remaining the only possible translation of the command to love God. How much we still have to grow in respect, tolerance, understanding, patience, benevolence... in order not to rediscover a "sounding brass or a clanging cymbal" (1 Corinthians 13:1), that is instruments unable to emit a harmonic sound, but only a distant noise related to a melody. Let's think about it.

Weekly Bible Reading

Plan # 23

May 31, 2 Chronicles 13-14; John 12: 1-26

June 01, 2 Chronicles 15-16; John 12: 27-50

June 02, 2 Chronicles 17-18; John 13: 1-20

June 03, 2 Chronicles 19-20; John 13: 21-38

June 04, 2 Chronicles 21-22; John 14

June 05, 2 Chronicles 23-24; John 15

June 06, 2 Chronicles 25-27; John 16

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