After God’s covenant with his people, Moses told them to fear the Lord, and keep all his statutes and commandments, which he enjoined on them, so that they may have long life. Israel’s faith is to anchor on
it (Deuteronomy 6:2-6). Hence their article of faith is formulated on it. For that reason every day, the people of God recite the ‘shema’: “Hear, 0 Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone! Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”
Today, one of the scribes asks to know from Jesus, which is the first of all the commandments. Jesus who alone is the word of God and the ultimate interpreter of the scriptures will answer with the same Jewish article of faith: the ‘Shema,’ recited daily by our Jewish brothers and sisters. Jesus did not stop there. He also added how it could be practicable by loving one’s neighbor, as one loves himself or herself. The scribe was happy with Jesus’ answer and Jesus in turn, approved of his insight and told him that he is not far from the reign of God (Mark 12:28-34).
One might ask what loving God entails. God has first loved us, and has given us his only begotten Son for our salvation. To love God does not mean to give him something. In fact, what can we give to God?
Everything we have, comes from God. What indeed do you have that you did not receive from God? Many times, we think that we love God by giving him time, by praying, by singing songs, etc. All of these are very good. But to love God is to accept his gifts, to share in his plan for people, to become instruments of his love wherever we find ourselves. To love God is to put on Christ and become Christ-like. It is to live in imitation of Christ, and to do as he did. It is to become his representatives in the world. To love God is to translate with our own lives, the generous response of Christ, and channel it to others. Jesus will speak of that love, when he says that there is no greater love, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. It is a total gift of oneself, with all his heart, with all his soul, with all his mind, and with all his strength. It extends to others and to love them, as truly as one loves himself. The insight of the scribe which Jesus approves as not far from the reign of God is that, such love is worth more than all burnt offerings or sacrifices. Love is very important for the attainment of the Kingdom of God.
Today the redactor of the letter to the Hebrews, speaks to us about the eternal priesthood of Christ. In presenting us with Christ’s priesthood, he compares and contrasts between Christ and the Old Testament priests. The priests under the old covenant were many and were prevented by death from remaining in office; but Jesus, because he remains for ever has a priesthood which does not pass away. Therefore he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he forever lives to make intercession for them. In the letter to the Hebrews, we are told that it is fitting that we should have such a high priest, who is holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:23-28)
As our worthy high priest, Jesus has offered once and for all sacrifice for us, when he offered himself on the cross of Calvary for the salvation of all the world. There, he prayed for us as he entrusted himself to the Father on our behalf.
The sacrifice of the cross is what as Catholics, we re-enact in an un-bloody way in every sacrifice of the Mass, bringing to our time, the fruits of the cross, enabling us to experience, Christ’s victory over Satan, sin and death. In every holy Mass, we experience the fruits and grace of Christ redemption, and come to encounter oneness with the Father in the Holy Spirit, through Jesus’ oneness with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Rev. Fr. Michael Onyekwere, SDV, PhD