O Lord, open our lips
and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
God of glory,
the end of our searching,
help us to lay aside
all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom,
and to give all that we have
to gain the pearl beyond all price,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Alleluia. Praise the Lord, O my soul:
while I live will I praise the Lord;
as long as I have any being,
I will sing praises to my God.
Put not your trust in princes,
nor in any human power,
for there is no help in them.
When their breath goes forth, they return to the earth;
on that day all their thoughts perish.
Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,
whose hope is in the Lord their God;
Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
who keeps his promise for ever;
Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong
and bread to those who hunger.
The Lord looses those that are bound;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous;
The Lord watches over the stranger in the land;
he upholds the orphan and widow;
but the way of the wicked he turns upside down.
The Lord shall reign for ever,
your God, O Zion, throughout all generations. Alleluia.
Glory to the Father and to the Son
and to the Holy Spirit;
as it was in the beginning, is now
and shall be for ever. Amen.
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?’
He said to him, ‘“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
The Hebrew scriptures (our Old Testament) contains hundreds of commandments. We usually think of there being just ten, those commandments which were given to Moses by God himself, but this is not the full story as far as strict adherents of the Jewish faith are concerned. In the Jewish tradition there are actually 613 commandments. This extensive catalogue of commandments divides into 248 positive (do this) commandments balanced against 365 negative (do not do this) ones. The Ten Commandments we think of do not tell the whole story for the faithful Jew. Is there any wonder that a Jewish lawyer felt that he had the ‘killer’ question to ask Jesus: Which commandment in the law is the greatest? There had to be a good chance that whatever answer Jesus gave would cause him to be criticized and vilified. However, Jesus was not to be trapped in this way.
In response to the lawyer’s question, Jesus quoted two specific Old Testament passages: one from the book of Leviticus and the other from the book of Deuteronomy. In Deuteronomy 6.4-5, we read: Hear O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. In Leviticus 19.18, we read: You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord. Out of the 613 positive and negative commandments of the Jewish law Jesus focuses in on those which lie at the very heart of God’s law for the whole of humanity. These two commandments are rooted in just one thing: love. Love for God and love for our fellow human beings.
Despite the clear path which Jesus ploughs through the minefield of those 613 commandments, it is a sad fact that we struggle with following God’s way through this world. We do not place either God or neighbour first in our lives. It is far nearer the norm to find people’s priorities rooted in self and in those closest to them. That may seem both understandable and even commendable to many, but it is not the path God calls us to follow.
Over the last few days we have reflected upon our attitude towards wealth and faith. We have been challenged to set aside greed and self-interest. Today we are offered Jesus’ justification for his teaching in these matters. Jesus makes it clear that we should not be putting self first because God tells us not to! We are called to live in love. That love should not be focused on ourselves and upon those we consider to be our nearest and dearest. Instead, we are called to love God and those we live alongside in this world openly and generously. There is no other way of interpreting Jesus’ message to us today.
Let us pray that we might open our hearts and our minds to this teaching. Let us pray that we might love God and neighbour completely and unreservedly. Let us pray that we might be Christ-like in the life of love we lead from now onwards.
Prayers of intercession
Let us pray to the Lord who rules over all things on earth and in heaven.
May your Church always proclaim the Gospel entrusted to her, never to be turned aside by desire for popular approval or worldly glory. May she fulfil in all her works the great commandment of your love.
Draw the nations closer to the sharing of love that overcomes all differences. Hasten the time when the whole world shall acknowledge you as Lord of all.
In love and gentleness may we be ministers of your grace to all those with whom we share our lives. Help us to live together as true neighbours of one another.
Have mercy on all who have been led astray and harmed by false teaching. Forgive their errors and free them from the power of evil.
Raise up the faithful departed into the perfect love which they began to understand in this world. Have mercy on those who did not understand, and grant them now the joy and fellowship that they could not find here.
We make our prayers in holy love to God and to our neighbours.
Prayer for the week
Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
and the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit,
be with us all evermore. Amen.