November 4, 2018
Sunday, November 4
Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 12: 28B – 34
One of the scribes came to Jesus and asked him,
“Which is the first of all the commandments?”
Jesus replied, “The first is this:
Hear, O Israel!
The Lord our God is Lord alone!
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul,
with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
The second is this:
You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.”
The scribe said to him, “Well said, teacher.
You are right in saying,
‘He is One and there is no other than he.’
And ‘to love him with all your heart,
with all your understanding,
with all your strength,
and to love your neighbor as yourself’
is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”
And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding,
he said to him,
“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
In this Sunday’s Gospel, we hear about the encounter between Jesus and an unnamed Jewish scribe. The fact that he is a scribe indicates he is a man with a rare level of literacy and specialized training. Even today, a good religious scribe is a precious resource. When a modern-day synagogue needs to purchase a new ritual-quality Torah scroll, it can expect to be quoted prices ranging from $20,000 to $60,000. That’s because a traditional sefer Torah scroll is completely handwritten. A specially-trained scribe, using quill and parchment, can labor up to a year in order to complete just one.
So this ancient scribe has probably handwritten the Commandments and other parts of the Torah many times over, laboring at the copying of Moses’ Five Books again and again. His question takes on a special poignancy by the fact that he literally knows the letters of the Commandments backwards and forwards. Maybe he can even write them in his sleep! But unlike some of the Scribes we encounter in the Gospels, this believer is not trying to use a question to trap Jesus or trip him up for some ulterior worldly motive. This scribe is a pious believer who believes in the Torah he labors over, a true “son of Abraham,” “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit” like the disciple Nathaniel. He recognizes that Jesus is explicating the Law and the Prophets in an entirely new way. And so he asks Jesus a honest question and listens carefully to the answer. And he is praised by the Teacher for being a scribe that more than just knowing his trade– how to write the literal letters of the words of the Law– also has the spirit of the Law written on his heart.
As we continue to learn more about the Tree of Life Synagogue attack in Pittsburgh, let us lift up in prayer the victims and families of that senseless tragedy. We Christians worship a Jewish Messiah, whom we proudly proclaim to be “son of David, and son of Abraham.” We continually invoke the intercession of our most loving and protective Jewish mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Let us pray for all of our Jewish brothers and sisters, asking the One True God — God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob — to keep all His children, Jew and Gentile alike, safe from violence and hate.
Fr. Matthew Morris