31st Sunday B

The Readings

The thing that stands out in the first reading is the expression of, almost, a bargain that Moses puts before the people.  He has received the commandments from God and is now trying to encourage the people to keep them.  The bargain is, if you keep the commandments, all will go well with you (secular prosperity}.  This, of course, is the attitude that a loving parent would have towards a child being trained to behave properly; and we do see God as not unlike a parent to us.  Yet because at the time of Moses, and for a long time afterwards, the Hebrew people had no real expectation of a life after death, they saw any benefit from, or reward for, good behaviour was of a material kind (or even of a longer than usual life).

In the second reading the author continues his exposition of the unique priesthood of Jesus in relation to the priests of the Jewish religion during the time of the Temple.  However, Jesus is not separated from sinners, as this translation puts it, but shares our humanity and is that close to us and we are all sinners.  The author is still elaborating on the quotation from Psalm 110 ( or 109) “God has sworn an oath which he never will retract, you are a priest forever of the order of Melchizedek” used by him in our last Sunday’s reading.

In the third reading Mark is focussing on the essential message of Jesus that takes the core of the commandments (referred to in the first reading) and highlights it as the essence of what He is teaching – it is an unlimited love of neighbour and of God.  It is this focus away from so many of the lesser rules of the Jewish religion at the time of Jesus that brings him into conflict with the religious authorities and leaders.  


Nowadays we see the two central commandments as ineluctably interlinked; the way that you love God is by loving your neighbour, and when you love your neighbour you are loving God.  We base this on teachings in the Gospels like the sayings of Jesus, “Whatever you do to one of these…” (Matthew 25:40), and “Where two or three are gathered together…” (Matthew 18:20).  In addition, I think that we now would interpret ‘neighbour’ as any other human being, rather than one who is close to us – to anyone we encounter!  Go and do this now!

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