We are accustomed to focusing on the 10 commandments as our guide for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is often said to use them as a road map for an examination of conscious prior to walking into the confessional. However, have we ever asked ourselves if there is a more important commandment than all the others? Is there one that is the greatest of all commandments? Jesus gives us the answer.
“One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, ‘Which is the first of all the commandments?’ Jesus replied, ‘the first is this: ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-32)
As with all scripture, we must take these passages in context of what is happening. In the previous verses, we see where Jesus is questioned about the resurrection and a hypothetical situation regarding a man who dies without children and his brother marrying his wife and questioning Jesus about who will be the man’s wife in the resurrection. He is responding to a question from the Sadducees and its important to note that these individuals were not fans of Jesus. They continually tried to trick Jesus into saying something that was against the Law or against God. However, his response to the question about the resurrection sparks another challenge but this time it comes from the Pharisees.
The answer Jesus gives to the Sadducees would naturally gain the attention of the Pharisees. The Sadducees believed there was no resurrection. They rejected the notion of resurrection after death. The Pharisees did, in fact, believe in the resurrection. The resurrection they are speaking of, obviously, is not the resurrection of Jesus. (That would come later) The Sadducees were part of the priesthood and their primary teaching was that the written Law, the Torah, was the only source of revelation by God and the only source that should be followed by man. They were very strict regarding obedience to the Law. The Pharisees taught and accepted that humans must use their reasoning in interpreting the Torah and applying it to current problems. They admitted the evolution of the Law as regarding the application of it to the evolution of the society. This is an important distinguishment as we look at how the two groups challenged Jesus and consider their intention behind the challenges.
“When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them tested him by saying, ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’” (Matthew 22:34)
In other words, the Pharisee was asking Jesus if they had to obey one commandment then what would it be. Jesus responded by saying, “you shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37-40)
The greatest commandment, as Jesus outlines, is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. I know it is easier said than done. In a world of constant phone notifications, social media, texts, emails, and unceasing noise, we find ourselves struggling to make God a priority. Yet, do you think the Lord did not know these days were coming when He spoke those words? Of course He did and He still intends for us to love Him with everything we have and above all else.
There are a few ways we can increase our love for the Lord. We can attend Mass as often as possible. If there is a daily Mass near you and it is held at a time where you have the ability to attend then you should attend. Jesus is waiting for you in the Eucharist. The second is to pray and attend adoration (here are some ways to get the most out of your adoration time). It is crucial to spend time with the Lord if we want to make him our priority. When we want our marriage to be stronger then we create ‘date night’ with our spouse. If we want our relationship with our friends to be stronger then we plan outings and activities to allow us to spend time with each other. If we desire for our relationship with our children to be stronger then we make them put away the electronics for a specified time (such as the dinner table) and have a conversation with them. We set aside time to spend with those in our earthly life. We should also set aside time to spend with the Lord. In fact, He should be the first person we think of when we awake and the last person we think of when we go to bed. A simple prayer of gratitude before we even get out of bed in the mornings can refocus our day to place Him first.
Think of ways your daily routine and habits can be altered to ensure the Lord is placed above all else. It’s the greatest of commandments. Why not do it?