Lectio Divina: Matthew 22:34-40
1) Opening prayer
God our Father,
may we love You in all things and above all things
and reach the joy You have prepared for us
beyond all our imagining.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 22:34-40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a scholar of the law, tested him by asking, "Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?" He said to him, "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."
• The text is enlightened. Jesus is in Jerusalem and precisely in the Temple where a process between Him and His adversaries is taking place, the chief priests and the scribes (20:18; 21:15), between the chief priests and the elders of the people (21:23) and between the chief priests and the Pharisees (21:45). The point of controversy of the debate is: the identity of Jesus or of the Son of David, the origin of His identity, and, therefore, the question regarding the nature of the Kingdom of God. The evangelist presents this plot of debates with a sequence of controversies that present a growing rhythm: the tribute to be paid to Caesar (22:15-22), the resurrection of the dead (22:23-33), the greatest commandment (22:34-40), the Messiah, son and Lord of David (22:41-46). The protagonists of the first three discussions are representatives of the official Judaism who try to place Jesus in difficulty on some crucial questions. These disputes are addressed to Jesus in so far as He is “Master” (Rabbi). This title tells the reader of the understanding that the interlocutors have of Jesus, but Jesus takes this occasion to lead them to ask themselves a more crucial question: the last time they took position concerning His identity (22:41-46).
• The greatest commandment. On the trail of the Sadducees who have preceded, the Pharisees ask Jesus a burning question: which is the greatest commandment? The Rabbis first make evident the multiplicity of the prescriptions (248 commandments), then the question is asked of Jesus regarding which is the most important. Just the same, the Rabbis themselves had created a true survey to reduce them as far as possible: David lists eleven (Ps 15:2-5), Isaiah six (Isa 33:15), Micah three (Mic 6:8), Amos two (Am 5:4) and Habakkuk only one (Hab 2:4). But the intention of the Pharisees regarding their question goes beyond every type of survey; it is a question of the essence itself of the prescriptions. Jesus, in answering, binds together love of God and love of neighbor, so much so as to unite them in only one, but without refusing to give priority to the first one, which subordinates, in a close way, the second one. Thus, all the prescriptions of the Law, all 613, are placed in relationship with this unique commandment: the whole Law finds its significance and foundation in the one of love. Jesus carries out a process of simplification of all the precepts of the law: anyone who puts into practice the only commandment of love does not only observe the law, but also the prophets (v. 40). Just the same, the novelty of the response is not so much the material content as in its realization: in Jesus, the love of God and love of neighbor have their own context, their last solidity. That is to say, that God’s love and love of neighbor, shown and realized in some way in his person, guides man to place himself before God and before others through love. The only commandment in two, God’s love and love for neighbor, become the supporting column, not only of the scriptures, but also of the life of the Christian.
4) Personal questions
• Is love for God and for neighbor only a vague sentiment, an emotion, a passing motion or a reality that affirms your whole person: heart, will, intelligence and human relationships?
• You were created out of love. Are you aware that your fulfillment takes place in God’s love, to love Him with the whole heart, with the whole soul, with the whole mind? Such a love demands a confirmation of charity toward the brothers and sisters and their situation of life. Do you practice this in daily life?
5) Concluding Prayer
Let them thank Yahweh for His faithful love,
for His wonders for the children of Adam!
He has fed the hungry to their hearts' content,
filled the starving with good things. (Ps 107:8-9)