In our Gospel reading today, Jesus encounters a sincere scribe, unlike the other Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees, who continually attempted to trick him and destroy his words.
Because of his sincerity, Jesus oﬀers great hope to this scribe by telling him that he is not far from the Kingdom of God. We can relate both to the sincere scribe and to those who doubted in Jesus. There are times when we have doubted in God’s love for us, and there are times when we have truly trusted in him. We must learn to trust him more than we doubt, so that we are not far from the Kingdom of God.
The scribe doesn’t approach Jesus with skepticism, but rather with an open heart. He is sincerely seeking to know Jesus’s identity. This humility and simplicity enables Jesus to reveal himself to this one scribe and draw so near to him that Jesus can tell him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
First Reading Reflection
Because of the busyness of our lives, it can sometimes be diﬃcult to keep God at the center. Our lives are typically organized around jobs, money, children, and other important commitments, given the secularity of our culture. This reading from Deuteronomy suggests a different organizing principle for our lives, one that calls us to love God completely. In the Catholic tradition, we refer to this central virtue of loving God as caritas, which means charity. All the virtues of a Christian originate with caritas, or love of God. Deuteronomy here insists on the interior dimension of love: we are to love God with all our heart (levav) and with all our soul (nephesh). This interior orientation toward God in love leads to action with our
bodily strength (me’od). This commandment not only unites the whole law, but it unites the whole of our lives in God. Our work, our family lives, our friend -ships, and our duties are all brought together by caritas—by love for God. Saint Paul explains this concept: “Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others” (Colossians 3:23). Moses promises the people that if they obey this law, they can look forward to the blessings of long life, happy circumstances, and many children in the Promised Land. We too can anticipate eternal life, sharing in God’s happiness in the Promised Land of Heaven if we take to heart his central commandment of the law: to love God.
Second Reading Reflection
In this second reading, we ﬁnd three arguments for the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old Covenant, centered primarily on the priesthood. First, the Old Covenant had many priests, while the New Covenant has only one eternal High Priest. Second, under the Old Covenant, many repetitious sacriﬁces were needed, while under the New Covenant there is only one sacriﬁce “once for all” (v. 27). Lastly, weakness and sinfulness of the Old Covenant priests fall short of the high priest of the New Covenant, who is “holy, innocent, undeﬁled” (v. 26). Jesus’s status as the Eternal High Priest means, “He is always able to save those who approach God through him” (v. 25). Our future, our hope for eternal life, rests on Jesus’s priesthood. It is through the supreme sacriﬁce that he makes on the altar of the Cross as both priest and sacriﬁcial victim, such that we come to share in his inheritance. It is essential for us to reﬂect on the fact that our God loved us so much that he sent his only Son as a priest to oﬀer himself as a sacriﬁce for us. Our very salvation depends on it.
Normally, Jesus’s conversations with the prevailing religious authorities are adversarial, but in today’s Gospel, a scribe approaches Jesus in all sincerity to discover whether he has an accurate grasp on the Law of God. Jesus responds to his question about the Greatest Commandment by referring to the shema of Deuteronomy 6, which was our First Reading. Love of God is the center of the Law, yet Jesus goes one step further, to say that the Greatest Commandment is twofold, to include love of neighbor, a law that he quotes from Leviticus 19:18. All of the commandments can be summarized under these two headings: love of God and love of neighbor. Jesus adds that to love God in neighbor “is worth more than all the burnt oﬀerings and sacriﬁces ” (v. 33). Jesus approves of his reply, but then subtly challenges him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God” (v. 34). Thus, in this Gospel passage, we are given the Greatest Commandment, which should be the source of our actions and meditations.
Digging Deeper: The Common Priesthood
Baptism is the foundation of our whole life as a Christian, but sadly many Catholics do not know the effects of Baptism and thereby cannot fully actualize them. One such gift is that we are incorporated into Jesus’s royal priesthood. While only a Catholic priest can exercise the ministerial priesthood, all who are baptized share in the common priesthood of Jesus. Burnt offerings and sacriﬁces are no longer required because Jesus, the eternal High Priest, offered himself as sacriﬁce once and for all. Thus, through our participation in Jesus’s priesthood we are able to offer his priestly sacriﬁce at the Cross back to the Father for ourselves and for the whole world. All sacriﬁces we make now are made redemptive when we unite them with Jesus’s sacriﬁce on the Cross.
Join the Opening the Word Discussion on Formed. Watch the short reflection video and respond to the questions.
When we start talking about evangelization, we can become nervous and overwhelmed. We think of people who spread the faith as the ones who know it very well and are ready for any question, but everyone is called to be a true disciple, not only theologians, priests, and religious. Preaching the Gospel should always ﬂow from this foundation of fulﬁlling the call to love God and neighbor. It becomes easier to evangelize when we know that we are sharing the Gospel out of love for God and our neighbors, and not because we are trying to make ourselves look good. Rather than focusing on answering apologetic questions perfectly, we are focused on sharing the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In order to fulﬁll the Great Commission to preach the Gospel, do you think you need to know more about Jesus and the Catholic Church first?