COMMENTARYAGAPE BIBLE STUDYSUNDAY WEBSITELIFE APPLICATIONSCATENA AUREA

31st Sunday of Year B

Commentary Excerpts (PDF)

SOURCE: Bible study program at St. Charles Borromeo (Picayune, MS) courtesy of Military Archdiocese.
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OUR SUNDAY VISITOR
OUR SUNDAY VISITOR

Key Points to the Readings

FIRST READING

Deuteronomy 6:2-6

Be blessed by keeping the Commandments

  • Today Jews and Christians will speak with one voice, as we are graced with the same reading in our assemblies.
  • Israel considers the relationship with God to be as powerful as the bond between spouses or between parent and child.
  • The importance of the command is illustrated by the instructions of keeping it in one’s heart and mind.
  • Love is the obvious demand of the relationship.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

SECOND READING

Hebrews 7:23-28

Jesus makes intercessions for us

  • In the first covenant there were many priests offering many sacrifices, and they passed away.
  • The sacrifice of Jesus is the only sacrifice necessary in the new covenant.
  • The Father appoints Jesus as permanent high priest, who will never pass away.
  • What is true for us today will also be true for those who follow us.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

GOSPEL

Mark 12:28b-34

Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself

  • This is a reaffirmation of the First Commandment.
  • In the synagogues the words are chanted with special tone, so that no one can miss them.
  • This is a proclamation, not a lesson.
  • Love is proclaimed again with Jesus’ New Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves.
SOURCES: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor.  The clipart is from the archive of Father Richard Lonsdale © 2000 which may be freely reproduced in any non-profit publication.

DR. KIERAN J. O’MAHONY, OSA

When Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Thought for the Day

There is a story told about an elderly Cistercian, who on being asked what he believed at that point in his life replied, “I believe more and more in less and less”! It is not as paradoxical as it seems. As we go on, the core dimension of the faith should stand out for us. As Erasmus wrote, the essentials are few but essential.

SOURCE: HEARERS OF THE WORD
DR. BRANT PITRE
READ THE TRANSCRIPT
So Jesus has taken one of the laws of Moses from Deuteronomy and one of the laws of Moses from Leviticus, put them together, these are the two greatest commandments, to love your neighbor as yourself.

Now in this case, why does he do that? Well already by the First Century A.D., in Judaism there’s a recognition that these two commandments, love of God and love of neighbor, in a sense summarize the two tablets of the Decalogue of the 10 Commandments. So if you look at the first three Commandments, prohibition of idolatry, against taking the Lord’s name in vain, and then keeping the Sabbath, those all are commandments oriented toward love of God. Then the second tablet of the 10 Commandments, honoring your father and mother, not killing, not committing adultery, not stealing, not bearing false witness, not coveting your neighbors possessions or wife, all those Commandments are oriented toward love of neighbor. So what Jesus is essentially doing is boiling the 10 Commandments, distilling them down to their essence and their core, and then linking those cores to two passages of Scripture: Deuteronomy 6, love of God, which they would pray three times a day, and then Leviticus 19, love of neighbor, which was not part of that liturgical prayer but which he’s bringing to the fore here…

…I would just say that this practice of memorizing Scripture, of putting Scripture into our hearts, is something that is very ancient and it’s also something very powerful, because when you recite words like that three times a day they’re going to actually shape the way you see reality, the way you live each day. It’s hard to live in opposition to God and at the same time recite three times a day to love God with all your heart, all your strength, all your soul, right. Does it make sense? Invariably too, when people start to live lives of disobedience, the first thing to go is prayer. The first thing to go is daily prayer. You can just trust me. You can put money on that. Take that to the bank. That’s how it works, because prayer is that living relationship of love with God. Once the relationship starts to dwindle the prayer goes, and especially daily prayer, that’s the first place to go, and then disobedience becomes more and more easy to carry out.

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MORE VIDEOS BY DR PITRE
Niell Donavan

Sermon Writer

FIRST READING

DEUTERONOMY 6:1-3. THIS IS THE COMMANDMENT

DEUTERONOMY 6:4-9. HEAR, ISRAEL: YAHWEH IS OUR GOD; YAHWEH IS ONE

SECOND READING

THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT

HEBREWS 7:23-25.   JESUS LIVES FOREVER––AND SAVES FOREVER

HEBREWS 7:26-28.   SUCH A HIGH PRIEST WAS FITTING FOR US

GOSPEL

MARK 11-16. A FOCUS ON JESUS’ LAST WEEK:

MARK 12:28-34. A SCRIBE COMES TO JESUS

MARK 12:28. WHICH COMMANDMENT IS THE GREATEST OF ALL?

MARK 12:29-31. YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD…AND YOUR NEIGHBOR

MARK 12:32-33. TRULY, TEACHER, YOU HAVE SAID WELL

MARK 12:34. YOU ARE NOT FAR FROM THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Richard Niell Donavan, a Disciples of Christ clergyman, published SermonWriter from 1997 until his death in 2020. His wife Dale has graciously kept his website online. A subscription is no longer required.

31st Sunday of Year B

Two Loves That Cannot Be Separated

HIDE/SHOW OVERVIEW

Yahweh united Himself to Israel in the sacred partnership of the covenant. Out of the nations and peoples of the earth, God chose the Israelites to be His partners in His divine plan for humanity’s salvation. In the First Reading, Moses reminds the Israelites of their covenant bond with Yahweh based on loving God with an undivided heart and demonstrated by obedience to the commandments of God’s Law that includes not only love of God but also love of one’s neighbor (Dt 6:5 and Lev 19:18).

In the Responsorial Psalm, David proclaims his faith in the living God and not in the lifeless images of the false gods in pagan temples. Yahweh gives His anointed king of Israel victory and shows David His continuous covenant love. God demonstrated His faithful covenant love (hesed) by keeping the eternal covenant He promised David and his heirs. It reached its climax in His beloved Son—the Davidic Messiah and King of the eternal Kingdom of the Church on earth and in Heaven, Jesus of Nazareth.

The Second Reading reminds us that God instituted the old covenant sacrificial system to proclaim the Word of God in a liturgy of worship and to restore communion with Him by sacrifices and prayer offered by an anointed High Priest. However, the old covenant and its hereditary Aaronic priesthood had to repeat its ritual sacrifices ceaselessly. It could not achieve definitive atonement and sanctification. But God, in His love for humanity, gave us His anointed priest, prophet, and Davidic king: Jesus of Nazareth, the son of David and Son of God. In Jesus’s perfect sacrifice, we receive the expiation and sanctification that the old order was incapable of giving and which only Jesus Christ, our New Covenant High Priest of the heavenly Sanctuary, can accomplish for all people of all ages. He continually extends His loving gift to us in the sacrifice of the Mass and the offering of Himself in the sacred communion meal of the Eucharist.

The First Reading serves as an introduction to the Gospel Reading in which a scholar of the Law attempts to test Jesus by asking Him which of the Mosaic Law’s commandments is the most important. Jesus answers by quoting from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 in our First Reading, but then He adds, The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'” In His answer, Jesus has effectively summed up the entire Law of the Ten Commandments as the love of God (first three commandments) demonstrated by the love of one’s brothers and sisters in the human family (last seven commandments). Love is the foundation and fulfillment of the Ten Commandments.

Just as David had confidence in God’s faithful covenant love in the Psalm Reading, so too can we know that God loves us in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus in which we demonstrate our love for God by our love of our neighbor. These are the two loves that are inseparable in one’s relationship with God. In the Old and New Testaments, one of the central points of God’s revelation to humankind is the binding force of love. God is love, and He calls us to love others as He loves us: In this way, the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him. In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as expiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another. No one has ever seen God. Yet, if we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection in us … God is love, and whoever remains in love remains in God and God in him (1 Jn 4:9-12, 16).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

FIRST READING

AGAPE STUDY

Promised Blessings for Obedience to the Law

Moses spoke to the people saying: 2″Fear the LORD, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all the statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life. 3 Hear, then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey. 4 Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone! 5 Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.  6 Take to heart these words which I enjoin on your today.”

Our reading was delivered by Moses, God’s covenant mediator to the Israelites, in his second homily to the children of Israel at their camp on the east side of the Jordan River as they prepared to begin their conquest of the Promised Land. In his discourse from chapters 6-11, Moses focuses on developing the central ideas of his teaching from the first section of the Ten Commandments (Dt 5:7-10) that demands loyalty to Yahweh, the one true God. The faithfulness of the Israelites demonstrates that commitment by serving only Yahweh, rejecting pagan idols, and continuing the covenant in future generations.

In the introduction to this section, Moses speaks of God’s promised blessings for the new generation of Israel’s obedience in putting His laws into practice when entering and taking possession of the Promised Land. It is one of the central themes of his final sermons in the Book of Deuteronomy. Moses urges the Israelites to “hear” his teaching on the Law and “keep/protect” what they have learned. He repeats what he taught at the end of his Ten Commandment commentary in Deuteronomy 5:29.

Moses admonished the people: “Fear the LORD, your God, and keep, throughout the days of your lives, all the statutes and commandments which I enjoin on you, and thus have long life.”

The Israelites must pass on Moses’s teaching and their “fear of Yahweh” to future generations as the basis for covenant continuation.  They must do this by applying God’s commands and prohibitions to their daily lives as examples of righteousness living for their children (Dt 6:20-25).

He will urge the Israelites to “fear the Lord” and show obedience to His commandments numerous times in his three homilies. However, Moses is not speaking of the type of fear that drives the people away, like the fear the people felt after witnessing the terrifying Theophany at Mt. Sinai (Ex 20:18-19). At the end of his first homily in Deuteronomy 4:34-40 and in 6:2-5, Moses juxtaposes the fear of God and the call to obey His commandments (verse 2) with his call for the people to love God (verse 5). He uses “fear” as an expression typifying a deep reverence for God that inspires fear of offending God and, therefore, faithfulness to God and loyalty to His covenant. Israel’s response to God’s love in giving them the Law of the Covenant (the Ten Commandments and other articles of the Law) as a guide to righteousness behavior must be the people’s obedience to His commands and loyalty to the covenant as the expression of Israel’s love (Dt 4:37; 6:2-5, 13; 10:12-15).

3 Hear, then, Israel, and be careful to observe them, that you may grow and prosper the more, in keeping with the promise of the LORD, the God of your fathers, to give you a land flowing with milk and honey.

If they put what Moses urges into practice, God will reward their obedience with prosperity and fertility in a land that has an abundance of everything to make life good. The promised blessings in verse 3 are reminiscent of those God first promised humanity at the Creation event and repeated to Noah and his family after the Great Flood (see Gen 1:28-30 and 9:1). “A land flowing with milk and honey” is a metaphor describing the abundance of Eden when man lived in perfect harmony with God. It also recalls the promises made to Noah and his family after the Great Flood. In each case, the blessings of fertility and prosperity in the land are associated with a new creation.

  • It recalls the blessings of the first creation event.
  • It repeats the blessings of the renewed creation with the earth and Noah’s family after the Great Flood.
  • It creates and blesses a new people and their nation, living in unity within a corporate covenant with Yahweh.

In verse 3, the children of Israel were to reap God’s blessings if they both feared (loyalty born of reverent respect) and loved Yahweh (Ex 20:20; Lev 25:17, 36, 43; Dt 4:10 5:29; 6:2, 13, 24, and Dt 5:10; 6:5; 10:12; 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; etc.).

4 Hear [shema], O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!  5 Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.

Their first obligation was to the commanded to love God with an undivided heart and with their whole being (heart, soul, and strength). Second, they were to place their relationship with God as individuals and a unified people above everything else. Verses 4-5 are the opening verses of the Old Covenant profession of faith known as the Shema.  Rabbinic Judaism requires reciting the Old Testament verses of the Shema (Dt 6:4-9; 11:3-21, and Num 15:37-41) in morning and evening prayers.

The passage from the First Reading should remind us of the revelation of God’s love for humanity in the New Covenant, which has its origin in God’s divine plan already taking shape in the Old Testament. Because of His love for us, God willing sent His “only beloved Son” into the world to die for the sins of humanity so that those who accept God’s gift of salvation through the New Covenant of Christ Jesus might have victory over death and life eternally.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

God’s Mighty Works

Response: “I love you, Lord, my strength.”

This psalm, attributed to King David, opens with a series of invocations proclaiming God as David’s Savior (verses 2-3). Then, David calls upon the Lord: his rock, fortress, and deliverer, in gratitude for saving him from his enemies (verses 3-4). For this reason, David proclaims his faith in the living God (verse 47) and not in the images of false gods in pagan temples. Yahweh gives David (the anointed king of Israel) victory over his enemies and shows him His faithful covenant love, the meaning of the Hebrew word hesed (verse 51). God does this by being faithful to the eternal covenant He made with David and his heirs. It is a covenant that will reach its climax in David’s heir and God’s beloved Son, Jesus Christ, the Davidic Messiah and King of the eternal Kingdom of the Church on earth and Heaven (see 2 Sam 7:16; 23:5; 2 Chr 13:5; Sir 45:25; Mt 1:1; Lk 1:32).

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study.Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

SECOND READING

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

Jesus our High Priest

Those priests were many because they were prevented by death from remaining in office, 24 but he, because he remains forever, has a priesthood that does not pass away.  25 Therefore, he is always able to save those who approach God through him, since he lives forever to make intercession for them.  It was fitting that we should have such a high priest: holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, higher than the heavens.27 He has no need, as did the high priests, to offer sacrifice day after day, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did that once for all when he offered himself. 28 For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

The Aaronic priesthood of the old Sinai Covenant was limited by human frailty and the lifespan of the priest, but the resurrected Jesus Christ is an eternal High Priest, living forever to make continuous intercession for us (CCC#13641366). In Hebrews 7:26-27, the inspired writer list five attributes of Christ as the eternal High Priest of the New Covenant:

  1. holy
  2. innocent
  3. undefiled
  4. separated from sinners
  5. higher than the heavens

He tells us that Jesus is “separated from sinners,” but only in His sinless nature and His place in the heavenly Sanctuary. In every other way, Jesus identifies with us and shows us the way to holiness and salvation. He is the perfect High Priest because:

  1. In His sinless nature, He is the perfection of holiness.
  2. God the Father installed Him as the High Priest of the heavenly Sanctuary, from where He rules the Church on earth.
  3. He offers the one perfect and holy sacrifice for the salvation of humanity.

The high priests of the Sinai Covenant had to offer sacrifices day after day for their sins and those of the covenant community. The daily holocaust sacrifices in two liturgical services was the first and foremost continual communal sacrifice commanded for the atonement and sanctification of the covenant people in Exodus 29:38-46. It was the “single” sacrifice known in Hebrew as the Tamid (meaning “standing” as in continual). The Tamid was an unblemished male lamb offered in a liturgical worship service twice daily, once in the morning and again in the afternoon (evening for the covenant people) in a communal sacrifice for all the covenant people along with an offering of cakes of unleavened wheat and a red wine libation. God commanded 15 times in Numbers 28:10, 15, 23, 24, 31; 29:6, 11, 16, 19, 22, 25, 26, 31, 34, and 38 that the Tamid took precedence over all other sacrifices that were only offered “in addition” to the Tamid. See the book “Jesus and the Mystery of the Tamid Sacrifice,” available on Amazon.

However, repetition of the Tamid sacrifices and the other sin, communion, and festival sacrifices was necessary. No animal could be perfect enough to obliterate the stain of sin from the human soul and sanctify it by reestablishing continued fellowship with God. The Sinai Covenant sacrifices were also incapable of offering eternal salvation or the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Catechism teaches:

  • CCC# 1539: “The chosen people was constituted by God as ‘a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’  But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance. A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant.  The priests are “appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”
  • CCC# 1540: “Instituted to proclaim the Word of God and to restore communion with God by sacrifices and prayer, this priesthood nevertheless remains powerless to bring about salvation, needing to repeat its sacrifices ceaselessly and being unable to achieve a definitive sanctification, which only the sacrifice of Christ would accomplish.”

28 For the law appoints men subject to weakness to be high priests, but the word of the oath, which was taken after the law, appoints a son, who has been made perfect forever.

St. Epiphanius, the late 4th century Bishop of Salamis, wrote concerning the perfect priesthood of Jesus Christ: “For he abides forever to offer gifts for us—after first offering himself by the cross, to abolish every sacrifice of the old covenant by presenting the more perfect, living sacrifice for the whole world. He himself is temple, sacrifice, priest, altar, God, man, king, high priest, lamb, sacrificial victim—become all in all for us that life may be ours in every way and to lay the changeless foundation of his priesthood forever, no longer allotting it by descent and succession by granting that, in accordance with his ordinance, it may be preserved in the Holy Spirit” (Panarion 4, Against Melchizedekians 4.1-7).

If Jesus’s sacrifice was “once for all” (Heb 7:28; 9:28), then why do we call the celebration of the Mass a sacrifice? Isn’t the sacrifice Jesus offered on the Cross enough? Of course, Jesus’s sacrifice on the Cross was complete and sufficient. However, He continues to offer His one perfect sacrifice, made present on the altar of every celebration of the Mass. It is the same sacrifice He offered on the Roman Cross that continues as the sacrifice He offers as both the unblemished victim and our New Covenant High Priest before God in Heaven and which continues to atone for the sins of humanity. As the inspired writer of Hebrews says in 8:3, Now every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; thus the necessity for this one also to have something to offer (emphasis added).  St. John saw Jesus in Heaven as the Lamb Standing before the throne of God, continually offering His sacrifice (Rev 5:6). St. John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople (AD 349-407), wrote, quoting this passage: “he says, ‘every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer’  […] But there is no priest without a sacrifice. It is necessary then that he (Jesus) also should have a sacrifice” (On the Epistle to the Hebrews, 14.2).

See the document “Is the Eucharist a True Sacrifice.” Also see CCC# 13301366-67; and read Hebrews 8:1-3 while considering that a high priest fills that office only because he offers up a sacrifice as God’s representative to His people. Therefore, Jesus continues to fulfill that holy office for God’s New Covenant people.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

GOSPEL

AGAPE BIBLE STUDY

The Greatest Commandment

28 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?”  29 Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘Hear O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!  30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.”  32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”  And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

In this encounter with Christ, a scribe aligned with the Pharisees approves of Jesus’s answer to the Sadducees when He defended the doctrine of a future bodily resurrection (Mk 12:18-27). However, the scribe stepped forward to test Jesus’s understanding of the Torah (the Law of Moses) by asking, “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus answered by quoting from two of the Torah’s commandments. The first is from the collection of verses in the Shema (the Old Covenant profession of faith) in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, and the second is from the Holiness Code (Lev Chapters 17-26) in Leviticus 19:18.

The first quote from Deuteronomy 6:7 concerning one’s relationship with God commanded that He must receive His people’s undivided love and loyalty the encompasses a faithful covenant member’s entire being:

  • one’s heart which is the true essence of a person and the seat of moral integrity
  • one’s whole spiritual and physical being
  • one’s entire intellectual faculties

Then Jesus told the scholar, 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.” 

Thus, Jesus identified the second law that leads to eternal life by quoting Leviticus 19:18 in the command that one must love one’s neighbor as oneself. The two quotes summarized the Ten Commandments: the first three commands address a person’s relationship to God. The other seven commandments concern the rightness of a person’s relationship with their neighbor (defined as other members of the human family).

32 The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.  You are right in saying, ‘He is One and there is no other than he.’  33 And ‘to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 

The scribe approved of Jesus’s answer. He also demonstrated that he had a spiritual understanding of what God requires in offering ritual sacrifices. Then the scribe referred to passages in Scripture when he spoke of the humility of “love” fulfilling Mosaic Law and the ritual of sacrifice. He probably referred to 1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 40:7-9; 51:18-19, and Amos 5:21-25. The Lord commanded, and David and the prophets Samuel and Amos understood that worship that is only an external ritual devoid of self-sacrifice and love, without a commitment to living in justice and obedience to the commandments of God, is meaningless like a life without a soul. 

34 And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Jesus approves of the spiritual understanding of the scholar and tells him that he is not far from the kingdom of God.  However, Jesus’s response to the scribe implies that something is lacking.
There is something else the scribe needs to be ready for the Kingdom of God.  He needs to accept Jesus as the Redeemer-Messiah!

And no one dared to ask him any more questions.

Jesus defeated all attempts by the religious authorities to discredit Him with the people. This exchange with the scribal scholar was the last time they tried to challenge Jesus on His understanding of the Scriptures.

Excerpts from Michal E. Hunt’s Agape Bible Study. Material slightly reformatted. Used with permission.

31st Sunday of Year B

SOURCE: The Sunday Website at Saint Louis University: This website is a service of the Catholic Studies Centre at Saint Louis University, Matthew Baugh, SJ, Director; John Foley, SJ, Editor; Eleonore Stump, Coordinator; JC McCollum, Webmaster
SCRIPTURE IN DEPTH

Preaching the Lectionary

by Reginald H. Fuller

To love means to trust solely in God and to reject the many gods of the heathens.


THE WORD EMBODIED

Saints

by John Kavanaugh, SJ

The wisdom shared by all the saints, after all, was about the wholehearted-ness of love.


HISTORICAL CULTURAL CONTEXT

Love, Hate, and Group Attachment

by John J. Pilch

Western individualism proves to be the biggest obstacle to community.


LET THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK

Greater Than the Temple Worship?

by Dennis Hamm, SJ

Two things stand out in the remarkable exchange between Jesus and the scribe: how very Jewish is Jesus’ teaching and how important this teaching is for Christian life.


SPIRITUALITY OF THE READINGS

With All Your Heart

by John Foley, SJ

If you are close to God, your love must spill over to other people.


GLANCING THOUGHTS

Not Far from the Kingdom of Heaven

by Eleonore Stump

Who loves his neighbor as himself? If obeying these commandments is the most important thing for getting into heaven, what hope is there for anybody?


THE PERSPECTIVE OF JUSTICE

The Principal Laws of Social Life

by Gerald Darring

“Love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.” It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Our experience tells us otherwise.


Ideas for General Intercessions

by Joe Milner

Ideas designed to be starting points for the prayers of a particular community of faith.

SOURCE: The Sunday Website at Saint Louis University: This website is a service of the Catholic Studies Centre at Saint Louis University, Matthew Baugh, SJ, Director; John Foley, SJ, Editor; Eleonore Stump, Coordinator; JC McCollum, Webmaster

31st Sunday of Year B

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

Love is a Decision

Deuteronomy 6:5 Here the Israelites were told to love God with all their heart, soul, and strength. Jesus called this the most important commandment in the Bible. If we love God, we will want to do everything he wants us to do. The nature of this love, however, is often misunderstood. In the Bible, love is not primarily an emotion. It is a decision that shows itself in appropriate actions. Thus, loving God entails the decision to follow God’s program, looking to him constantly for help and forgiveness.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

God’s Transforming Power

PSALM18:43-50The successes that God gives us can be a strong encouragement to others. In recovery we are called upon to share our victories with others. As we do, we will also be carrying the message of his saving power and love to those who are listening. This may be all it takes to give them the courage to go on. They will see God’s transforming power in our life and begin to hope that God can do the same for them. Because of who God is and what he does for us, we should constantly give him thanks and praise for the way he helps us.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

Christ is Always Available to Help

HEBREWS 7:20-26 God’s unchanging oath regarding Christ’s priesthood stated prophetically in Psalm 110:4 meant that Christ’s priesthood was forever and was related to a better and final covenant. This permanence means that Christ will see our recovery through to the end, that he is always available to help, and that he is always our perfect model for godly living.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

LIFE RECOVERY NOTES

Two Thoughts to Rule Our Mind

MARK12:28-34 Many think of religion, with all its commandments, as a burdensome straitjacket, antithetical to true recovery. This may have been true, in some sense, of the Judaism in Jesus’ day, and it is sometimes true today among people who claim to belong to God. Jesus wanted to correct this false understanding of true faith. He summed up the numerous Jewish laws in two simple but profound commandments: Love God totally and love others as much as we love ourself. If these two thoughts rule our heart and mind, we will be well along the path toward recovery.

SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.

PREACHER’S COMMENTARY

The Scholars’ Dilemma

The scholar’s dilemma. “Which is the first commandment of all?” (v. 28) is a typical scholarly inquiry; it has many roots. The primary task of the scribal expert is to interpret meaningfully the Law. In the process, a dilemma arises. Interpretation of the Law requires laws to explain the Law, thus creating an ever-expanding legal casebook. Meaningful interpretation of the Law, on the other hand, calls for the simplification which translates the Law into life. The split is between the complex interpretation and the simple meaning of the Law.

Scholars in every field of study share the dilemma. Research produces new knowledge that stimulates more research—on and on the ever-expanding cycle of knowledge goes. The other half of scholarly responsibility cannot be forgotten. To teach and apply their findings, scholars must be able to synthesize, order, and simplify knowledge. Otherwise, as one wag commented on the ever-expanding cycle of knowledge, “We know more and more about less and less, and soon we will know everything about nothing.”

A scribe of the Pharisees would find it particularly difficult to make their laws simple and meaningful: 613 statutes comprise the oral law with 365 prohibitions to coincide with the number of days in the year and 248 commandments to equal the reputed number of generations of man. Attempting to make this morass meaningful, scribes divided the statutes into “weighty” and “light” categories and cross-classified them as “ritual” or “ethical” laws. The need for meaning in the Law also kept before them the challenge to develop a single, simple, working principle that would encompass all of the other statutes. When the scribal expert asked Jesus, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (v. 28), he must have had this challenge in mind. At least, Jesus’ answer makes that assumption.

The Simplest Truth

Jesus’ knowledge of the Law and its history keeps the scholar gasping. Reaching back to Deuteronomy 6:4, He confirms the foundational truth of the Shema which serves as the call to worship in the Jewish synagogue, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”(KJV). From this basic premise, He proceeds to the principle revealed in Deuteronomy 6:5: “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (KJV).

These are the words of the Mezuzah which are written on the doorpost of every Jewish home. Jesus then applies the principle by matching it with the commandment in Leviticus 19:18, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (KJV). With scarcely a breath in between, Jesus has summed up the Law, the prophets, and the gospel so that He can say, “There is no other commandment greater than these” (v. 31).

“Oneness” is the theme around which Jesus wraps the simplest of truths. The “oneness” of God is His foundational premise. Throughout Jewish history, the struggle between monotheism and polytheism never abated. Pharaoh, Baal, Caesar, and many others joined the march of competing gods. Today, the battle of gods goes on, perhaps not with names and faces, but under the cover of ideas, attitudes and movements. Guerrilla action, not open warfare, blurs the battleground. Secular humanism, for instance, is a god of its own sort, ill-defined and misinterpreted most of the time, but nevertheless contending for sovereignty over the minds of men. To declare that our God is one God denies the deity of Baal, whether cast in stone and graven in image, whether breathed in spirit or embraced in ideas.

“Oneness” continues to be Jesus’ theme as He identifies love as the dynamic agent in man’s relationship to God. Ordinarily, one expects that power, not love, will rule the relationship between a sovereign God and submissive humanity. For pretender gods, this is the case. But for the God of gods, self-giving love is the only explanation for the Creation, the Covenant, and the Christ. “Oneness” with God, then, presupposes a two-way relationship in which love engages heart, soul, mind, and strength to worship and obey God. No facet of human personality—affection, intellect, or will—is left untouched or untransformed by love for God. We are at “one” with Him and with ourselves when the commandment is freely and delightfully operative.

A dimension of “oneness” is missing if the love relationship is limited to communion between God and man. To make “oneness” complete, the same self-giving love must flow in person-to-person relationships. “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v. 31) is the point of proof that God is one God and that a person’s heart, soul, mind, and strength are transformed by love. Because the commandments to love God and to love your neighbor are separated in Old Testament Scriptures, the Pharisees had an excuse to lower the priority of the second commandment. Jesus takes away their excuse by fusing into one simple and inseparable commandment what they believe about God, how they relate to Him, and how they treat their neighbor. Wherever and whenever there is the sin of separation in this commandment, Jesus calls again for the “oneness” with which He ended His answer, “There is no other commandment greater than these” (v. 31).

In what must have been one of the most satisfying moments in Jesus’ teaching ministry, the scribe shows that he qualifies as a student as well as a scholar. Commending the thinking and admitting the truth of Jesus’ words, he summarizes the answer and relates it to the fatal issue which puts Jesus at odds with the Pharisees. By confessing that the love commandment “is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices”(v. 33), he walks away from his colleagues, but steps up to the threshold of the kingdom of God.

Superior knowledge of the Word of God and superior wisdom in rabbinical debate has won out in Jesus’ encounters with His enemies. The capstone comes when the expert in the Law asks, “Which is the first commandment of all?” (v. 28). After Jesus answers in a few short sentences the question that has absorbed centuries of scribal time and energy, His intellectual protagonists lose their daring and slink away, knowing that He will have to be faulted on something other than His words. From now on, no one will dare ask Him a question.

SOURCE: Excerpt taken from THe Preacher’s Commentary, Complete 35-Volume Set: Genesis–Revelation offers pastors, teachers, and Bible study leaders clear and compelling insights into the entire Bible that will equip them to understand, apply, and teach the truth in God’s Word.

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MARK 12:28-34

28. And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?

29. And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord:

30. And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

31. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

32. And the scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth; for there is one God; and there is none other but he:

33. And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

34. And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God. And no man after that durst ask him any question.

ANNOTATED INDEX

Third Century

  • Origen – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian) – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great” – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople) – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh) (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch) – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.) – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt) – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople) – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre) monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc) – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria

COMMENTARY

GLOSS. (non occ.) After that the Lord confuted the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, who tempted Him, it is here shewn how He satisfied the Scribe who questioned Him; wherefore it is said, And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all?

PSEUDO-JEROME. This question is only that which is a problem common to all skilled in the law, namely, that the commandments are differently set forth in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy. Wherefore He brought forward not one but two commandments, by which, as by two paps rising on the breast of the bride, our infancy is nourished. And therefore there is added, And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; the Lord thy God is one God. He mentions the first and greatest commandment of all; this is that to which each of us must give the first place in his heart, as the only foundation of piety, that is, the knowledge and confession of the Divine Unity, with the practice of good works, which is perfected in the love of God and our neighbour; wherefore there is added, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.

THEOPHYLACT. See how He has enumerated all the powers of the soul; for there is a 1living power in the soul, which He explains, when He says, With all thy soul, and to this belong anger and desire, all of which He will have us give to Divine love. There is also another power, which is called natural, to which belong nutriment and growth, and this also is all to be given to God, for which reason He says, With all thy heart. There is also another power, the rational, which He calls the mind, and that too is to be given whole to God.

GLOSS. (non occ.) The words which are added, And with all thy strength, may be referred to the bodily powers. It goes on: And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

THEOPHYLACT. He says that it is like, because these two commandments are harmonious one with the other, and mutually contain the other. For he who loves God, loves also His creature; but the chief of His creatures is man, wherefore he who loves God ought to love all men. But he who loves his neighbour, who so often offends him, ought much more to love Him, who is ever giving him benefits. And therefore on account of the connection between these commandments, He adds, There is none other commandment greater than these. It goes on: And the Scribe said unto him, Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God, and there is none other but he: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) He shews when he says, this is greater than all sacrifices, that a grave question was often debated between the scribes and Pharisees, which was the first commandment, or the greatest of the Divine law; that is, some praised offerings and sacrifices, others preferred acts of faith and love, because many of the fathers before the law pleased God by that faith only, which works by love. This scribe shews that he was of the latter opinion. But it continues, And when Jesus saw that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.

THEOPHYLACT. By which He shews that he was not perfect, for He did not say, Thou art within the kingdom of heaven, but, Thou art not far from the kingdom of God.

BEDE. (ubi sup) But the reason why he was not far from the kingdom of God was, that he proved himself to be a favourer of that opinion, which is proper to the New Testament and to Gospel perfection.

AUGUSTINE. (de Con. Evan. ii. 73) Nor let it trouble us that Matthew says, that he who addressed this question to the Lord tempted Him; for it may be that though he came as a tempter, yet he was corrected by the answer of the Lord. Or at all events, we must not look upon the temptation as evil, and done with the intention of deceiving an enemy, but rather as the caution of a man who wished to try a thing unknown to him.

PSEUDO-JEROME. Or else, he is not far who comes with knowledge; for ignorance is farther from the kingdom of God than knowledge; wherefore he says above to the Sadducees, Ye err, not knowing the Scriptures, or the power of God. It goes on: And no man after that durst ask him any questions.

BEDE. (ubi sup.) For since they were confuted in argument, they ask Him no farther questions, but take Him without any disguise, and give Him up to the Roman power. From which we understand that the venom of envy may be overcome, but can hardly lie quiet.

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000 Commentary in public domain.

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