Speaking to the Soul – April 5

All your heart

Jesus said: “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”Mark 12:29-31

The Jewish teachers of the law were famous for two things. Firstly, they took hold of the 613 laws that were given to Moses and added layer upon layer of other regulations. But they also enjoyed being able to reduce the whole law to a short sentence. That’s what Jesus does here. He took the vast weight of the Jewish law and summed it up with the command to love God and one’s neighbour. He was the first person to bring together these two instructions into a single command.

The words that Jesus used would have been well known to any Jew. They were known as the Shema and were the words that opened every act of Jewish worship, and still do. Jews are constantly reminded of them. On every doorpost in a Jewish home, there is a small cylindrical box called a Mezuzah. Inside the box there is a tiny copy of the Shema. It is also contained in the phylacteries, or little leather boxes, which devout Jews wear as they pray. You will still see them being worn by many Jews at the Western Wall (otherwise known as the Wailing Wall) in Jerusalem.

We can so easily make life complicated, but Jesus continually calls us back to the simplicity of his message. Love is the key. We can never go wrong if we love him and live in obedience to his loving commands. St Augustine summed this up with the well-known saying: “Love God and do as you like.” Often, when we think about laws we think about the long list of things that we shouldn’t do. But God’s fundamental law is entirely positive. When we love him and show love to our neighbour, the thought of hurting them in any way disappears. Our whole interest is to encourage and strengthen them, in just the same way as God constantly seeks to build us up and make us stronger.

What will it mean for you to love God today with all your heart, mind, soul and strength?
Loving God, I thank you for your perfect love for me. Help me to learn how I can better pass that love on to others. Amen