The double commandment of love Mark 12, 28-34
Dear community, today we hear it in the second reading: the Double Commandment of Love. And as it is so central to our faith, it will also be today’s sermon theme.
Most of us know this text, this ‘condensing of the entire gospel,’ but how can we implement what we hear? To know this text, as one of the most important Gospel texts, is not enough. To know – in the sense of, therefore, know About it- is not enough. Only when what we are touched and moved does something arise that goes beyond knowing. (to understand)
So the spoken text touches me on several levels and I would like to try to take you along this path by formulating my questions to these statements of Jesus. My first question concerns the “whole”. Loving With all your heart, with total dedication, with all your mind and with all your might. How should I be able to do that?
My second question also has to do with the first question, because it concerns the “you should”. I want to hear myself calling –, but you God, you cannot put the knife on my chest: (Thou shalt- you should)
And my third question for this sermon: How can the love for my fellow human beings succeed? How do I find the right measure? When is enough enough? where is more necessary? All these questions knock oﬀ the practicality of such a commandment.
When I start with the first question, I feel overwhelmed. Maybe it has something to do with my background or with my education, maybe with my understanding of the German language, but All is all in, half is half and nothing is nothing. There is little room for interpretation in these terms. At least to my understanding. An understanding that is, of course, culturally shaped, because if I say I come at 13:00, then I’m (in fact) actually there exactly at 13:00 and not five at one or half an hour later. If it were said that you should love the Lord with the heart, with the mind and with your soul, then it would still be very, very comprehensive, but “whole”? This In my understanding means all, everything. Just like the last term means “with all your strength”. In my understanding of language and with my cultural character then comes to this “all” actually also a “complete”. So for me, from “with total devotion” becomes “always, constantly, every second of your life” on the one hand and on the other hand this “all, so full power, everything that is at your disposal, maximum eﬀort”. And I am hopelessly overwhelmed by this situation. What do you do in such a situation? Right, you look for the emergency exit, take a parachute and jump out of the plane! “Thank you, but not for me.” When it gets so tight, then I pull, at least, the ripcord. And this exit strategy fits very well with my second question: What is this Das Doppelgebot der Liebe Markus 12, 28-34
Please, what kind of reaction can we expect, if we use a command-like formulation for a Voluntary Act? In our everyday language, the language we talk today, it makes a pretty big diﬀerence if I say
„You should clean up your room.” Or “Could you clean up your room, please?” How much more diﬀerent, with something as precious as love: ‘You should love me? If a woman would say that to me in the hope of an erotic love aﬀair, then I and probably many other people in my place would be rather oﬀended. “You shall love me!” Uh, yes maybe, may I please decide for myself … “Not so quick, lady!
I think that once we have considered this text from the Gospel of Mark,, now, we realize thatwe need a diﬀerent solution. In other words, this is not how we get on with the statement of Jesus. What can we do?
I want to start with the “you should”. There are translators who, for example, translate the ten commandments with “you will” instead of “you should”. Then, for example, “You shall love your parents” becomes “You will love your parents” or “Thou shalt not steal” a “Thou will not steal.” The intention, as far as I understand it, is that a man, who wants to go the ways of God, becomes so divine because of his love for God that it will do so. Because the other action would no longer fit with his relationship with God. He who loves God will not steal. He or she does not do it because the love of God is stronger, more important. That would be an approach. (possibility)
Another approach would be, in my view, if we were to look more at the initial question and the intention of it. The scribe’s initial question is, “Which is the most important of all commandments?” And now we take this question seriously. As seriously as we take the question the rich young man asked – ‚What must I do to obtain eternal Life?‘
If we really take the question seriously and do not dismiss it as a trick question or test question, then it is a very important, a very central question: What must I do? And for the sake of why such an important question is asked of Jesus, for me, I see the confidence or the sense of the questioner in relation to who they are dealing with. As far as my heart is concerned, what concerns my personal healing, which concerns me deeply, I do not put this before just anybody. No, I ask someone in whom I have confidence and from whom I expect a qualified answer. So with this background, the “You Must” gets another character.
An example: I cook. And every time I put the flour in the sauce, the flour clumps and these little flour bunches emerge. And then I ask my grandmother, who was a fantastic cook: Grandmother, what do I have to do, so that the sauce does not clump? And she replies: So if I were you, I’d give this a try: dissolve the flour first in cold water and then pour it through a sieve to the finished sauce. Or another example: My bike has a flat tire. How can I get the Tire oﬀ, it’s so tight on the rim, it just will not! Existential problem. Someone who thinks well with me, gives me the following advice: First press the Tire together with the foot, then you have more air above and you can even remove it without tools.
What do I want out of? What happens if we do this “you Should “as a well-intentioned, helpful piece of advice that comes from a person who simply knows the subject matter well. What is the most important requirement that helps me live? What is most important for my life to succeed? And Jesus, the Son of God, answers, “So if you ask me, then it might be helpful to place God at the center of your existence.” With this image, God in the center In my life, I also approach what could be meant by the word “whole”. “Whole” in the sense of “helpful” and thus as a direction. Focused on a goal. If your life is to succeed, then it is helpful to move towards God with all your senses, with all your heart, with all your devotion and with your whole mind. Today we might say it a little bit diﬀerently than with all your will, your feeling and your Mind. In any case, this “whole” then gets the sound of “perfect” in the sense of “filling everything.” Not as a demand of God, but as a wisdom of God, for successful life. I would like to hold that: “Thou should” as the wisdom of God and God “Whole” as target.
Let us turn to the last question. How can the love for my fellow human beings succeed? How do I find the right measure, when is it enough, where does it take more? These questions can also overwhelm us when we hear the daily or hourly order to treat our fellow human beings the way we treat ourselves: I go for a pizza, yes then every beggar must also get a pizza. With what right do I have a car and my brother or sister has none? How can I stand it that I live in abundance and others do not even have enough to eat? Whoever hears the commandment of Christ will despair, he will be overwhelmed or he will have to sell everything he has and give it tothe poor. I am inclined to want to see a Direction in this as well. In which direction should it go, what is the goal of my action? And here, too, in my view, a look at the entire text heard in this passage is worthwhile, because the scribe agrees with Jesus in all matters. He agrees with Jesus and adds that all that Jesus has said is “worth much more than all the burnt sacrifices.” Thus, this scribe, of course, by praising Jesus for his answer, gives us one good reference to the background of the statement of Jesus, “you shall love your fellow man, as yourself.”
It is about the practice of togetherness. The practice of coexistence takes precedence over any religious cult, acting a substitute for sacrificial worship. Because a person has become guilty, he needs a sacrifice; so people thought at the time of Jesus. The practice of togetherness says: You have a mouth, you have hands, feet and ears. If you have a fight with another human, then fix it. Treat people the way you want to be treated. No more and no less. That’s how it is today. This is still a helpful approach today for our mutual cooperation. Not envy, but generosity. Not dogmatism, but mercy. When we live that, love gains space in our lives.
The Double Commandment of Love is timeless. It reminds us from where our power comes from and how life can succeed.