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Jesus’ teaching on the greatest commandment is found in the three synoptic gospels (Mk 12: 28-34; Mt 22:34-40; Lk 10:25-28). Jesus was asked a question frequently directed to the rabbinic teacher requiring some prioritization of Judaism’s 613 precepts.

Jesus’ answer joins Dt 6:5 and Lev 19:18 as a summary of the entire law. In the gospel of Mark he quotes the great ‘Shema’ so called because it is the first word, שָׁמַעְ (shãma’), of what serves as the preamble to the love commandment (Dt 6:4-9; 11:13-21; Num 15:37-41), prayed three times a day by pious Jews, professing as well their faith in the God of Israel as the one and only God. Translated to the common word ‘hear’, it specifically has in this context the sense of a careful listening to God and giving heed to him, tantamount to the idea of obeying him, (e.g. Abraham in Gen 22:18; the people in Josh 24:10). This nuance is taken by the NT as well. The word akouõ (ἀκούω) kept the same sense of ‘listen carefully, pay heed to’ especially to the teaching of Jesus, (Mt 11:15, 17:5; Mk 9:7, Lk 16:29).

Jesus’ response lends perspective to the New Testament toward the Jewish law and illustrates the way that Jesus’ teaching transcended the extensive legislation and casuistry of the Pharisees. Although Jewish teaching coupled love of God and neighbor, never before were the two so inextricably linked by Jesus, a move that will characterize Christianity joining indisssolubly the two. Even non Christians, like Gandhi, recognize the sublimity of this imagining what a great impact it would have in the world if only all Christians would ‘hear’ (heed and obey) Christ seriously.

Not to consider our neighbor in our love of God is self-defeating. As St. John in his epistle bluntly asks us ‘how can we love God you do not see and ignore your brother or sister at our side’, (1 John 4:20). One graphically pictures the absurdity of it when he said that we cannot step over the homeless when we enter our churches. Nor can we attend mass with sincerety while determined not to speak to another person. Such makes a mockery of our faith.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

Kamag-anak, Inc.

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