30th Sunday - A
What is the bottom line?
We always want proofs. That seems to be a part of our human nature. An academic essay must have quotations with authoritative source. In a serious discussion and debate, one always needs to back up one ideas or statements with statistics and facts.
The same goes with our moral principles. We want to know why, what the source is, etc. Try to get in a debate with somebody on moral or religious issue. The common question is often, “Where do you find that in the Bible?” (or the teaching of a faith tradition, for that matter).
The people in the time of Jesus seemed to have the same mentality. The Jews practiced as many as 613 regulations and precepts, all with backups found in the Torah. Since they are all in Scriptures, they must be valid. But with so many laws, no wonder why there was a need to divide them according to different levels of importance. That was why the Pharisees asked Jesus the question, “Which commandment in the law is the greatest.”
Jesus again gives us the answer that goes beyond the question. It is not the issue which law is the greatest. It is not where we find a law or regulation. The bottom line is all laws and regulations are only expressions of the two equally important commandments of love. In fact, in the words of St. Matthew, “the whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” In the original language, the word for “depend on” can be translated as “hang on.” Think of a line that hangs on 2 poles, or a door held up by the two hinges. For Jesus, the two commandments of love work in a similar way. In this way, Jesus did not toss out the law and commandments. They remain valid. Yet, they are only meaningful if we observe them out of love.