June 3rd, 2004
Howie Kalb, S.J.
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Have you ever reflected upon the way sports announcers throw
around the superlatives? They talk about this quarterback as the greatest
in the league. Two weeks later some other quarterback is the greatest.
And by the end of the season, the sportscaster has determined at least twelve
or fifteen quarterbacks are the greatest. Now that’s impossible.
It’s seems from the Gospel the scribe is caught up in a similar dispute concerning
the first or greatest commandment. So he consults Jesus for his opinion.
For Jesus, the answer is simple. It’s right there in the Bible.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul,
with all your mind and with all your strength.” Deuteronomy (6:4) And
for good measure he adds the second, which is like to it; “You shall love
your neighbor as yourself.” Leviticus (19:18)
It’s what Jesus has been teaching all along. And it’s why so many of
his adversaries have been attacking him. They believed and taught that
keeping the infinite details of the Judaic Law was most important.
Paul in his Letter to Timothy, charges his listeners before God “to stop
disputing about words. This serves no useful purpose since it harms
those who listen.” It seems so often “word games” in religion can do
irreparable harm. Explaining spiritual and divine realities in human
terms will always be inadequate and can often be done mainly through imperfect
analogies. Being inadequate and imperfect, it frequently will result
in disputes over words.
That explains why Jesus commends the scribe telling him: “You are not far
from the Kingdom of God.” He stayed with the Scriptures. It’s
a reminder not to get caught up in our speculative answers. Nor should
we get overly attached to our own apodictic words. Rather we are challenged
to keep refining our expressions through the study of the Scriptures and
prayer. Little by little, it’s the way we get to know the Lord more
intimately, love him more ardently and follow him more closely.
to the writer of this reflection.
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