Year B, The Thirty-First Sunday Ordinary

No Greater Commandment

November 5, 2000


Ronald D. Curley

Text: The Holy Gospel According to Saint Mark 12: 28-34

Saint Vincent de Paul was credited with the quotation -- "We must never glance at what is good in ourselves, much less ponder over it, but we should search out what is wrong and what is lacking. This is an excellent way of remaining humble."

There are many disputes in the world, men with men trying to compete and make the better impression.

Many souls try to become amongst their communities - the "predominant" force, or perhaps even, the great articulator, or maybe, the "authority," and even perhaps, the one who seeks to be noticed as the "spokesperson" for the Faith.

Recently this quotation became a predominant matter for my own thinking, knowing the life and work of St. Vincent de Paul in the tumultuous period he lived in the war ravaged 17th century France.

In ourselves, left to our own strength, we are nothing before God. We sleep and eat most of the time and produce little in the grand scheme of things.

St. Augustine understood the issue that St. Vincent de Paul understood.

Faith, Hope and Charity are the good ways of God - but it is Humility that proves to be the best approach to God alone. For this is truly the essence of God's demonstrated Love, of Hope, of Faith - the work of God within us that we might have this mind that was in Christ Jesus. (Cf. Phil.2)

When we hear this story of a dispute, we find this leads us into the message again of the necessity of Humility in our own lives.

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the first of all?"

What is the first, the primary commandment?

Jesus wastes no time in answering the scribe, who was a man of letters and understanding in the Law of Moses.

Immediately, Jesus goes directly to the essence of the Torah, Deuteronomy 6 - the Great "Shema" of the Hebrew confession of faith.

29 Jesus answered, "The first is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one;

30 and 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.'

The essence of the Law is to Love God. To love God is to love Humility. Because it was God who became the Humble Jesus, born in a stable in Bethlehem, the "house of Bread," where he was laid in a manger where the animals eat the food laid there for them.

The only God - the One who laid aside much and emptied himself in perfect Humility - as our Perfect Love, our only Hope and our Faith.

One can hardly imagine the Incarnation that followed the fiat of Mary!

I often think of the deficiency of brain cells within my own head when I think of what Eternity did when God became Man in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Many theologians have explored these things.

In the end, we must say with Vincent -- "We must never glance at what is good in ourselves, much less ponder over it, but we should search out what is wrong and what is lacking. This is an excellent way of remaining humble."

No greater commandment is ever seen that that of Jesus, who not only spoke it here, but demonstrates it perfectly in life and deeds.

"One day," writes Bonaventure, "while Francis was praying in a secluded spot and became totally absorbed in God, Jesus Christ appeared to him fastened to a Cross." Then, writes Bonaventure, "Francis' soul melted at the sight." This was not just a momentary good feeling for Francis. As Bonaventure writes: "The memory of Christ's passion was so impressed on the innermost recesses of Francis' heart that from that hour, whenever Christ's crucifixion came to his mind, he could scarcely contain his tears and sighs...."

No other saint has been so popularly views as humble as Francis.

His secret?

The Cross-.

This demonstration of the Love of God on the Cross-was so profound that Francis (with all the saints of the Church) became completely absorbed in it. This is the goal for us as well. This focus is the key to keeping the greatest of all the commandments.

So much so do the saints become absorbed in the Cross, the secret place of Humility, Love, Hope and Faith that this leads them not to the place of pre-eminence, of self importance, of aggrandizement of their works - but the place of glorying in the WORK OF CHRIST!

What is the work of Christ?

It is the Love God with everything that we are in God.

And this provides the focus of our lives this mind, which was also in Christ Jesus. Jesus speaks of this.

31 The second is this, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these."

There are no greater commandments than these.

So many miss this point. But, this scribe did not miss anything. He knew what Jesus spoke of.

32 And the scribe said to him, "You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that he is one, and there is no other but he;

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, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices."

So many stop with their burnt offerings and sacrifices.

So many look upon their own work as something special.

Vincent again says to us -- "We must never glance at what is good in ourselves, much less ponder over it, but we should search out what is wrong and what is lacking. This is an excellent way of remaining humble."

How deficient am I, my brothers, in "what is lacking"?

Where is the "what is wrong" in me that shows me how short I have fallen from the glory of God and his demonstrated Love in the great act of Humility of the Life that lived completely the CROSS?

The Wisdom of God is the Cross-before the Crown.

So may it ever be with us until God gives us reward by grace.

34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And after that no one dared to ask him any question.

Dare we ask God for special rewards and accolades in a world that has rejected the King that is Righteousness?

It was Mary that gives us the example of being obediently in the background during her earthly life until God glorifies her in heaven in the sight of all the saints.

This scribe was not far from the view of Mary who proclaimed the same view -

"My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; because he has regarded the lowliness of his handmaid; for, behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; because he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name; and his mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him. He has shown might with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and has exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has given help to Israel, his servant, mindful of his mercy, even as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever." Luke 1:46-55.

May we come to sense the essence of the greatest commandment and walk humbly in God alone with Mary and all the saints and this one who was not far from the kingdom of God.

Deus et Sanctissima.

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