“And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’” (Mark 12:34.)
Reading through the Gospels, we are not used to seeing Jesus commend the scribes and Pharisees but today we hear Jesus say to one that he is not far from the kingdom of God. This is because this scribe understood the priority of love as far as the worship of God is concerned.
To worship God is to love Him and to love God is to love our neighbours as ourselves. Once we understand this principle, we cannot be far from heaven. It is like having the key to unlocking the gate of heaven. This is because, upon our admission into paradise, we shall be judged based on how well we have loved our neighbours as ourselves. “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me.” (Matthew 25:40).
Jesus summed up the entire commandments of God in two statements: “To love God with all your heart, soul and mind” and “to love your neighbour as yourself.” This is not to say that all other commandments are not important, rather, once we love God and our neighbour, we are automatically keeping all the other commandments.
How? While the first three commandments are hinged on love for God, the other seven concern our relationship with our fellow brothers and sisters. For instance, one who loves God will never worship other gods. One who loves others as himself will never convert, steal, kill or dishonour his parents and so on.
As the scribe said: “to love our neighbour as ourselves is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” If the love of God is not in our hearts, if there is hatred against others in our hearts, then our singing and dancing in church, our rolling up and down, our speaking in tongues and so on, are all useless.
Jesus says: “When you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first, be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24). It is more important to forgive those who hurt us than to pray and fast all day and all night.
The prophet Hosea speaks to us in our first reading: “Return to the Lord your God.” Are you finding it very difficult to pray? Do you consider the time spent in church as wasted? These are clear signs that your heart has found another love other than God and it is time to let your love for God begin to burn once again.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, break my heart of stone so that I can love you and my neighbours better. Amen.
(Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent. Bible Study: Hosea 14:2-10, Psalm 81 and Mark 12:28-34).