Today in Mark’s gospel we find one of the most important questions ever asked, for which we get a double answer that really is a single if we know how to see. It’s the long answer to what we have been given elsewhere. Today it seems so important to go that extra mile; it isn’t a time for shorthand. So consider every clause — even every word of the answer to “Which is the first of all the commandments?” Jesus begins to answer with a declaration of who this God is to whom we owe allegiance and then with what is contained in our covenant toward this God. Waking up the audience with an imperative, Jesus begins:
Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone!
What follows is a list of all the superlatives that speak of the totality of what is expected: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. (We might wish to ask ourselves in this time of challenge: Am I ready to give up all activity that might pass along the infection running rampant now in our country and the world? Is there anything that I want to do today that will be dangerous to others or myself? )
The second part of this “great commandment” (because we really cannot do one without the other) is: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Clearly that means today: Don’t go out anywhere that you might encounter another person unless it is necessary for the good of the whole.
How close are we to following the command contained in this gospel reading? Can we see that what we do or don’t do for God is also the way we love one another? This is perhaps the most important work of this day. Let us be about loving.