31st Sunday Year B
Theme of the week: God’s Commandments form a coherent whole – crytallised to a single commandment of love. Christ’s suffering on Calvary was a great example in living this commandment of love.
In Deuteronomy 5:6-21, God gave the people the Ten Commandments, which can be summarised as follows:
- Honour God
- Honour God’s name
- Honour God’s day
- Honour your father and mother
- Do not kill
- Do not commit adultery
- Do not steal
- Do not lie
- Do not wrongfully desire another person’s wife
- Do not wrongfully desire another person’s goods
What is the one common theme among these Commandments? In other words, what is the one quality we need to possess to be faithful followers of God’s Commandments? This week’s First Reading provides the answer: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (verse 5). The passage crystallises the Ten Commandments into a message of love.
By the time Jesus walked on earth, the Pharisees were preaching strict adherence to 613 Mosaic Laws. These laws imposed a heavy burden on the believers and, in many ways, the preachers of these lost sight of the intent of God’s Commandments. This set the scene for Jesus being asked the question in this week’s Gospel: “Which commandment is the first of all?” (verse 28). In other words, of the 613 Mosaic Laws, which is the most important of all? In reply, Jesus echoed the teaching of Moses, crystallising the Commandments into two commandments of love: love your God (verse 30) and love your neighbour (verse 31). The first of these encompasses Commandments 1 to 3 of the Ten Commandments; while the second encompasses Commandments 4 to 10.
The First Reading and Gospel teaches us that the Commandments of God are not to observed in isolation, but are to be observed as coherent laws on love. As John explained in 1 John 4:20: “Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” In fact, the commandments of loving God and loving one’s neighbour are not only related, but can in fact be further crystallised into just one universal commandment – the commandment of Love.
The Second Reading continues last week’s discussion on Christ’s priesthood by comparing Christ’s priesthood with that of the human priest:
- Christ lives forever and is hence an eternal high priest, a point made in last week’s Second Reading; or as stated elsewhere in the Gospel, in Luke 1:33, “He will reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
- Christ is sinless, and hence he need not offer sacrifice to atone for his own sins. If Christ was sinless, why did he suffer then? The only reason Christ offered a sacrifice is to atone for our sins.
- The sacrifice Christ offered is himself, atoning for all sinners past, present and future, once and for all. What great love!
That Christ sacrificing himself to atone for our sins is a perfect embodiment of the Commandments of God – the commandment of love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” John 3:16