“Listen, Israel, the Lord your God is One. You shall love the Lord with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And this is the second. “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.” —Mark 12:29–31
In this compelling Gospel passage, Jesus is putting together what he sees as the summit and the summary of his own Jewish teaching (from Deuteronomy and Leviticus), plus he might well be echoing a famous rabbi, Hillel, who was his contemporary. Hillel said to an overzealous young rabbinical student in Judea: “What you find hateful do not do to another. This is the whole of the Law. Everything else is commentary. Now go learn that!” The new message here is that Jesus combines the quote from Deuteronomy with the quote from Leviticus! The scribe has asked him for the “first and greatest” commandment, and Jesus gives him two commandments yet treats them as one! He connects two disparate passages and makes them one and the same, love of God and love of neighbor: “There is no commandment greater than these!” Matthew’s telling makes it even more explicit, “And the second is just like it! On these two commandments hang everything in the law and in the prophets” (22:39–40). If it is really Love, it is always One. The passage ends by the crowd being utterly silenced by such clarity and simplicity.
“One God, you make all things one. Even my own heart, and even one with the hearts of others, and most unbelievably one with yours.”
— from the book Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent
by Richard Rohr, OFM, page 74