The ultimate sacrifice

October 31, 2021

The passage from Deuteronomy we hear today provides a bit of the context for the original formulation of what becomes “the first of all the commandments” (Mark 12:28). Unlike Jesus, Moses is not responding to a question. Moses is wrapping up his presentation of the terms of the covenant between God and the Chosen People. After detailing the Ten Commandments the Lord gave him on the mountain, Moses tries to impress upon the people the importance of their fidelity to this covenant. Fidelity demands an absolute faithfulness. The emphasis is not so much on “heart, soul, and strength as separate entities, but on the repeated word all. Fidelity requires a commitment from their whole being. The scenes prior to this one shine some light on the way the scribe questioned  Jesus in this passage. First, a Pharisee, trying to trap him, asked him about paying the census tax to Ceaser. Then, a Sadducee,  using the conundrum of a woman widowed by seven   brothers to deride the idea of resurrection. Each of them addressed Jesus as “teacher,” but hypocritically. This scribe used the title with respect. Like many others, he saw Jesus as a teacher, a rabbi. Jesus here quotes Moses, the preeminent teacher of the covenant and the law, placing himself firmly in that tradition. The remaining authorities present, seeing Jesus success in responding to both sincere and insincere questions, chose to ask this true teacher no more questions. The reading of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus was much more than a teacher, more than a successor of Moses. Because he made the ultimate sacrifice and sits at God’s right hand for eternity, he is always able to intercede for us to God. Continual fidelity to the greatest commandments is a challenge, even with the best of  intentions, but Jesus’ sacrifice for all forever can “save those who approach God through him” (Hebrews 7:25) Amen. (Casey, Most Reverend Robert G. Pastoral Patterns. World Library Publication, 2021).

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