"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."
We live in a litigious society. Whenever you turn on the tv or drive down the highway you are bound to encounter advertising for law firms. The lawyers are experts in the civil law. But this is nothing new. Going back a few millennia, man always had rules and laws. God gave us the rules to live by, even to Adam and Eve. But man broke the law and we are still paying for that today. That kind of law breaking is called sin, because we broke God's law. Civil law and church law sometimes become intertwined. The gospel reading for mass this weekend comes from Mark and it finds a scribe asking Jesus about God's laws, or commandments as we know them. Jesus is often questioned by the Pharisees and Sadducees about laws, and Jesus is even accused of blasphemy and breaking laws by healing on the sabbath, not being clean while eating and others. Occasionally the church officials would ask questions to try to trip up Jesus. Today's reading however has the scribe asking a genuine question, not so much to find understanding, but to confirm what he already knew. He asked what the greatest commandment is. Jesus answered the question: That we are to love God with all of our being (heart soul mind and strength) and love our neighbors as ourselves. The scribe then shared his understanding of the law, but then added that the commandment was greater than burnt offerings and sacrifices to the temple. This struck home with those in the room, for they were used to keeping the law by performing the rituals and sacrifices taught through the ages. But Jesus brings a new law, a new love of neighbor that we are to live out today. Instead of sacrificing doves or other things to the temple, Jesus wanted his follower to-love their brothers and sisters, no matter their background, nationality, social status, financial well-being, health and more. All of us today want to be loved and treated with respect regarding of our backgrounds, race, health and more. We are called to make God the center of our life. When we love God with all of our heart soul mind and strength, everything else in our world should follow suit. When you love God and serve him, you then love and serve others with love in your heart. Ask God today to give you the strength to love the stranger, the neighbor and even God in a more deep and intimate way.