Gospel Lesson for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time: Mark 12:28-34
28 One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he 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 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 Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; 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,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.
Some (or more than some) of the bigotry against the Jews must be laid at the feet of the Christian Church. The responsibility for fighting Semitic bigotry must be our responsibility as well. There are centuries of horrible rhetoric and poor exegesis of the gospels. How we interpret the scriptures matters greatly.
There are some verses that set up an us and them kind of contrast. And there are stories like the one for this Sunday. Here we can hear that Jesus is not arguing against Jews but rather for an understanding of the Torah that is inclusive of God’s love for all people. A scribe is the one who Jesus praises. His understanding of the law is close to what the Rabbi is teaching. Thus the gospels are not intended to argue against groups of people but rather for healthy and against unhealthy ideas.
There is no contrast in this periscope between peoples. Here is affirmation of a common understanding of what it means to love God and neighbor. As Christians rub shoulders with people who hate Jews, we need to be able to say that Jesus loved them. They were his people and the founders of our faith. And that we love them.
May we be an instrument of God’s peace.