Which commandment in the law is the greatest?

Published August 19, 2022, 12:05 AM

by Manila Bulletin


The Pharisees question Jesus to probe his authority as a “rabbi” to interpret rightly the Mosaic Law. As to the greatest commandment, Jesus cites two scriptural passages binding the double commandment of love — the love of God from the Shema prayer (Dt 6:4-5) and the love of neighbor from the customary rules of conduct (Lv 19:18). By this, Jesus summarizes the whole demands of the Law and the Prophets. The Torah of Moses (the Pentateuch) contains many commandments and prescriptions, both heavy (very important) and light (less important). The Decalogue (Ten Commandments) are heavy ones (Ex 20:1-17) compared with making restitution for a maimed animal (Ex 22:13). Love, St. Paul says, does no harm to anyone; hence, “it is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom 13:8-10). St. Augustine puts it in another way: “Love God and do what you please.” This is not a license to do whatever we please. St. Augustine is saying that if we love God, we are not going to offend him and we do not need any “rules.” And if we love God, this translates to the love of neighbor: “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 Jn 4:20).

Gospel • 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.”

Source: “365 Days with the Lord 2022,” St. Pauls, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 632-895-9701; Fax 632-895-7328; E-mail: [email protected]; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.