The Commandments

The Commandments

30th Sunday of the Ordinary Time [A]

October 25, 2020

Matthew 22:34-50

The question is, “what is the greatest law?” Once again, the historical and religious context is important. When Jesus and the Pharisees discuss the Law, they are speaking about particular Law. It is neither criminal law nor international law. It is the Law of Moses, the Torah, which points to Moses’s five books. According to the tradition of the Rabbis, the Torah contains 613 specific laws. Thus, the Pharisee is questioning Jesus on the most important among 613 commandments.

For the Jewish people, the answer is not difficult and even expected. The most fundamental law among the laws is the Ten Commandments. It is the first set of laws given to Israelites through Moses in Sinai. The traditional belief holds that the Ten Commandments are traditionally by order of importance, meaning the first is the most essential, and the last is the least essential. Therefore, the first among the Ten Commandments is the greatest among the 613. It says, “I am the Lord your God… there is no other God beside me [Exo 20:2-3].”

However, Jesus escapes the expectation and reconstructs His own answer that will be the moral foundation of Christianity. Jesus’ answer is, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Though the answer is unusual, it remains orthodox because the source is also the Law of Moses. To love the Lord with our all is rooted in the Jewish basic prayer “Shema” [see Deu 6:4-6], and to love our neighbors as ourselves is springing up from the book of Leviticus [19:18]. What Jesus does is He radically changes the orientation of the Law of Moses. Instead of limiting ourselves to the prohibitions of the Ten Commandments, Jesus sets love as its direction. Love is seeking the goodness of the beloved, and love never stops until we are united to our beloved. To obey the 10 Commandments is foundational, but that is the minimum, and Jesus teaches us not to stay at the boundaries but to go beyond till we are united with God and others in God.

Before, I thought the commandment of Jesus was nice and lovely words. I love God by going to the Church every Sunday, especially during Christmas and Easter, and I love others by occasionally helping them or giving a donation to the poor. But I realize something a bit off. Jesus never says, “this is my greatest recommendation or advice.” What Jesus tells us, “This is the greatest commandments!” Law is meant to be obeyed, and here, we are dealing with the biggest laws! To love the Lord with our all is not optional. It is a must, and to love our brothers and sisters is not based on our convenience, but it is a divine obligation. To love God, neither not a part-time job nor to love our neighbors is our pastime. It is either all or nothing. That is Jesus’ greatest commandments.

Valentinus Bayuhadi Ruseno, OP

Check also my Youtube Channel at “bayu ruseno” to see various videos on Catholic faith.

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