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GOSPEL COMMENTARIES


 

 

THE GREATEST COMMAND (Matthew 22:34-40)

There are three kinds of learner. The first are those who can learn from the experience of others. They don't have to undergo an experience to learn from it. The second are those who have to learn from experience. This is not so good in that certain experiences are evil and others are permanently destructive. The third are those who cannot learn either from their or others' experience. They cannot even be called learners. And such were the Pharisees and Scribes. 

Refuted by Christ and seeing others refuted by Christ, they continued to entrap Him. They never learned. But now a Pharisee who was a lawyer was sent to entrap Christ. Fortunately, this lawyer was a thinking lawyer and, as the Gospel shows, he was eventually converted to Christ. 

He approached Christ and asked a very good question. It was a test that would truly show if one is from God or not. "Which is the greatest command?" The lawyer-Pharisee knew which was the greatest command. He was testing if Christ would modify by adding or subtracting from the commands of God. A man of God would not add nor subtract; a pleaser of man would modify the teachings of God.

Christ answered and at the same time did not fall into the trap. The lawyer, being a learner, was enlightened. And Christ praised him as "not far from the kingdom of God," a way of saying that he was well on the right way but not quite inside the kingdom. He still lacked a few things.

Christ had a way of answering that enlightens; the enlightenment comes in a greater knowledge of oneself. In effect, Christ told the lawyer, 'This is the greatest commandment, Love God, and you are not doing it since you are trying to entrap me which is no act of love.'

'Love God with all your soul like the plants, with all your heart like the animals and with all your mind  like humans.' And the second, love of neighbor, is likened to the first in that only rational beings can love neighbor. No one can love neighbor, whether wife or children, without loving God first. 

There are two things that lead to perdition; evil doctrines and a corrupt life. Love of God removes evil doctrines; love of neighbor corrects a corrupt life. The two are welded together. One cannot exist without the other. More often one lives a corrupt life because he has evil doctrines. 

Blessed Theophylact: On Matthew

 

 

 

(updated 08-08-02)

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