“One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the first of all?'” – Mark 12:28
You thought it was a worthy question, Jesus,
so worthy that you did what you so often
did not do: you answered it. With quotes.
“Deuteronomy six, verses four and five,” you said.
“The second is much like it, but you’ll have to turn
the pages to Leviticus nineteen, the eighteenth verse.”
Well, no, you didn’t tell him that,
and force him to refresh his memory for numbers
rather than the force of God’s commands:
“The first is ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD is one,
so love the LORD with heart and soul and mind and strength.
The second is to love your neighbor as yourself.”
An honest earnest question and an honest earnest answer,
so you and he agreed. “Yes Teacher, you have truly said
that God is One, there is no other, to love the LORD
so well, to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is better
than the offerings and sacrifices of this Temple.
And so you told him he was near the Realm of God.
“After that no one dared to ask him any question…” but
I wish they had. For if to know that loving God and
loving neighbor is to stand upon the verge
of God’s expanding realm, the question still remains:
How do we cross the border from its edge
and find ourselves as citizens of God?
I see that steady, steely gaze, of course.
You have no need to answer what you’ve answered
time and time and time again. To know
we are to love our God, to know we are to love
our neighbor, these bring us to the gate.
To make the crossing, we must bring the love.
A poem/prayer based on Mark 12:28-34, the Revised Common Lectionary Gospel Reading for Year B, Proper 26 (31).
The image is Caritas by William Wilson, 1905-1972. From Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. https://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=57837 [retrieved October 27, 2021]. Original source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/paullew/8539356086/.