The Great Commandment; Reflecting on Mark 12: 38-44

By Jillian Nalezny
Photo Credit: Helena Lopes


One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.


This gospel reading reminds us to do the very thing that it is incredibly simple yet undoubtedly difficult. Jesus answers, without skipping a beat, that we must love God with every ounce of strength that we have. He is giving us the key to embodying all of the commandments.

It sounds simple enough, but when you think about it, our love for God is different than the other relationships in our lives. A friend, a sibling, our parents, a significant other: they are all connected with a love that is personal and easy to feel. There is a reason we consider them friends: they are similar to who we are.  

Our relationship with God stems from our belief in him and knowing that he is all around us: in the leaves changing colors, in the sun rising in the morning, in the strangers who walk by us; however, God is also in the people who we consider our enemies or the person with whom we feel we can never agree. We were told to follow the Golden Rule in elementary school, to treat others how we would like to be treated, but as adults, I think, we sometimes lose sight of this.

There can be a loss of respect when two don’t see eye to eye. Even more difficult, before we can love anyone, we must also love ourselves. How can we take care of others if we cannot take care of our own self? Jesus understands the challenge in front of us, as he too was once human, but he also understands that we are given many chances to do what is right.

The gospel ends with Jesus acknowledging that the scribe is not far from heaven. As Catholics, we can question God just as the scribe did, but by finding love in God and in our neighbor, we are following what we are called to do.