Year B: 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Gospel: Mark 12: 28-34
It is wrong to assume that all those who asked searching questions of Jesus were trying to trap him. Some would be seeking clarification of things that puzzled them or trying to explore Jesus’ insights into the Law.
At the time of Jesus, the Law had become overlaid with layers of interpretation as people tried to ensure a complete obedience to the perceived will of God. As Jesus hints elsewhere, the custom of offering a tenth of one’s income extended for some to the offering of minute quantities of herbs; the precise distance that one could walk on the sabbath was prescribed - and so on. It is hardly surprising that under the weight of regulation, people sometimes wondered whether it was all necessary.
Jesus had shown a new freedom in his attitude to the Law to the extent that some believed he was trying to overturn it. This was not the case - Jesus came rather to fulfil it and to bring people back to a freshness in their observance of it that had been lost.
And so, the scribe who comes to Jesus seems genuinely to have been seeking his advice. Again, it can be useful to spend time imagining the scene - the attitude of Jesus - the scribe and those around them. Jesus listens to the question - pauses for a moment and then gives his response. The scribe hears the response and finds that it confirms his own feelings and replies enthusiastically - “Yes! That’s how I feel - loving God is the root of everything!” As St Augustine was to say later, “Love God and do as you like!”
The exchange is likely to have been more than words. As in any conversation between people who find themselves in accord, there would have been exchanged looks and unspoken understanding and an aura of harmony between Jesus and the scribe. It is likely that it was this rather than the answer which silenced the onlookers.
The moments when words of Scripture leap out of the page and create an overwhelming “yes” in our souls can have a profound effect on our lives. Suddenly, something of which we were only vaguely aware becomes crystal-clear. We feel as if we are falling in love again with God - with Jesus - and hear in their words something deeply personal - written hundreds of years ago but spoken as if they were really only intended for us.
What does it mean for me?
© 2006 Wellspring