Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jesus is now in Jerusalem and the evangelist Mark gives us an account of his activities there. He has several encounters with the religious teachers. In this particular meeting there is no animosity. It is a peaceful dialogue between those who seek to do God’s will. The passage shows how Jesus’ teaching takes the Hebrew Scriptures as its starting point. The words of Scripture Jesus speaks here are the same words we have already heard in the first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy, which includes in its final verses the Jewish prayer known commonly as the Shema’ (‘listen, Israel).

To these words taken from Deuteronomy Jesus adds a quotation from Leviticus, another book of the Law, which commands love of neighbour.

The conversation with the scribe continues by raising a point very frequently made by the prophets of the Old Testament and by Jesus: love of God and of neighbour is of more importance than ‘holocaust and sacrifice’.

There is a profound agreement between Jesus and the teachers of Judaism. The tragedy which follows comes when worldly calculations are seen to be more important than seeking together to do the will of God. It is a situation repeated with dreadful regularity throughout the history of the world.