At the time of Jesus, the Law consisted of some 613 commandments.
The question of which commandment was the greatest was frequently asked and argued by rabbis.
Today’s Gospel has Jesus being asked the same question. However, rather than replying with one, Jesus responded by naming two as if they were one.
‘You shall love the Lord your God’ is found in the Book of Deuteronomy (6:4), and ‘you shall love you neighbour as yourself’ is found in the Book of Leviticus (19:18).
The image I find most helpful is the image of my breathing – I need to breathe both in and out to live.
Once upon a time, in the desert of Egypt, there lived an old abbot named Barnabas. Around him lived a small coterie of fellow monks.
Christmas was approaching, and the monks met to see how they ought to prepare for the approaching feast and decided to fast for the seven days before the feast day.
Each monk went off to their cell to fast and pray.
About the middle of the week, two itinerant monks came to visit Abbot Barnabas.
Seeing that they were very hungry after their journey, the Abbot cooked a little vegetable stew for them.
To make them feel at ease, he took a little of the stew himself.
The other monks saw the smoke rising from the abbot’s cell.
This could mean only one thing – he had lit a fire to cook some food, which meant he had broken the solemn fast.
They were shocked.
Together, as one body, they went to confront him.
Seeing judgement in their eyes, the abbot asked, “What crime have I committed that makes you look at me like this?”
“You have broken the solemn fast,” they answered.
“So I have, “he replied.
“I have broken the commandment you have made, however, in sharing my food with these brothers of ours, I have kept the commandment of God that we ought love one another.”
On hearing this the monks grew silent, and returned to their own cell, humbled but wiser.