H/T to Fr. Philip Neri Powell of the New Orleans Dominicans, for some inspiration in the 7th and 8th paragraphs.
I had no school last Thursday (June 6) so I had the opportunity to go to Mass in the Ordinary Form. The Gospel passage was Mark 12: 28-34, here from the Revised Standard Version (CE). Much of this relates from what I've learned in high school, actually.
28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” 29 Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; 30 and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and 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 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he; 33 and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any question.As it happens, I was at a Dominican parish (St. Louis Bertrand in Louisville) and this is just ripe for a Dominican commentary...
The priest first pointed out that Jesus said nothing here that could be contradicted or further questioned upon by his audience. His first response is the Shema Yisrael, from Deuteronomy 6:4, which is the most important prayer of Judaism, the belief at the center of the Jewish religion. Next, Jesus tags on a verse from Leviticus, chapter 19, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
Many of Jesus's questioners liked to try to trick him into saying something 'blasphemous,' or something silly that they could use against him. I'm not quite sure what this scribe wanted, but I have a reasonable answer: the Truth! He heard good answers from Christ before, so why wouldn't the next answer be true as well?
Father reminded the congregation that the Holy Trinity is an eternal friendship. We must live our lives in imitation of God the Son. So then our relationships must be lived in imitation of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, i.e. the Holy Trinity. We must work to sanctify them. It doesn't have to be heady and formal, but we must pursue Truth together. As Aquinas said, "to love is to will the good of the other," and so we must be looking out for our neighbor, to keep them away from sin and towards Our Lord. It's not just 'love your neighbor,' it's 'love your neighbor as yourself.' You can't support someone in sin. Charity demands we draw them away from it. God knows that we wouldn't indulge in it if we are against it, so why this "I'm against it, but it's their choice so I support that" nonsense? Sure a person has free will, but don't affirm them in something wrong!
Our scribe here says something curious: that the love of neighbor is more than all the burnt offerings and sacrifices. As a Christian, I can safely say that this is true, for the unblemished perfect sacrifice on the Cross erased the need for any more bloody sacrifices. Only one needed to be represented for all time, one that represented the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. And in John, Our Lord is recorded as saying that "Greater hath no love than this, to lay down one's life for a friend."
We are all made in the image and likeness of God, who created us because He is Love, so our love for our neighbor is connected to our love of God. The law of faith is the law of prayer. Lex orandi, lex credendi. That means what we believe is expressed in what we say in prayers (hence the focus on getting our Catholic liturgical expression corrected!). It is also furthered upon with "...lex vivendi." or The law of faith is the law of prayer is the law of life. Our prayers and sacrifices are part of our love for God. We honor Jesus's commandment to "do this in memory of Me" during Holy Mass, and we pray out of a desire to be with Him in Heaven. It helps our neighbors when we celebrate the liturgy. Everyone can receive grace!
But then, we must leave Mass. "Ite, Missa est." "Go forth, the Mass is ended." This 'dismissal' in the Extraordinary Form is then followed by the recitation of the Last Gospel from St. John, where we are reminded of the greatest Love, where the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. That should provide a source of inspiration from where we can then go love our neighbor through acts of mercy.
G.K. Chesterton wrote, “We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty.” Yes, yes indeed. We do not often recognize this, however. As I said previously, we undercut each other. We speak with haste in sarcasm or mockery. We get angry for unjust reasons. We treat each other as the other is inferior and stupid. Let us turn to 1 Corinthians 1:13 for a reminder on how to love, which was NOT the reading that accompanied this Gospel. That was actually from Tobit, which puts a healthy fear of death in a man, considering that the young man getting married is probably going to die, and connects so well with this next point. As Fr. Philip Neri reminds us, a failure to love our neighbor is a failure to love God. Our neighbors are His creation, and we are failing to obey His commandment. To not love them is to risk our own damnation.
It is interesting how the Gospel is not about 'not doing' something but rather about 'doing something' i.e. loving, but we humans are forced to say 'Don't do' or otherwise use a negative description ('risk,' 'failure,' and so on).