Thursday of the Ninth Week in Ordinary Time – Mk 12:28-34
Today’s Gospel narrative takes place after Jesus has successfully refutes the groups of Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees (what we’ve been hearing these past days); the Pharisee in today’s Gospel is the only good Pharisee that Mark presents in his Gospel, and it’s interesting to note why the Pharisee approaches Jesus in the first place. Mark tells us that he was listening to the dispute, and saw “how well Jesus answered” (that little half verse is omitted from the Gospel reading). Being a Pharisee, we’d think that he would be upset or vengeful after Jesus refuted his fellow Pharisees. Yet, unlike the response of so many others, who misunderstood and rejected Jesus, this Pharisee recognizes that Jesus is someone with knowledge and understanding. Rather than spring a trap for him, the Pharisee asks a difficult question, but an important one, and he asks precisely because he wants to know the answer.
This leads appropriately into the first and greatest commandment. If we “love the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, with all our minds, and with all our strength,” this implies that we must serve Him, and, if we are to serve Him, we must know His will. We must know what He wants for us. We have to ask, and be willing to embrace whatever that answer is, be it a call to sacrifice more, to suffer, to pray more . . . or just to patiently endure something He wants to send us.
This is precisely what the other listeners in today’s Gospel don’t understand. After this profound answer, Mark tells us that “no one dared to ask him any more questions.” The Greek word to dare here doesn’t mean only to challenge or to confront; rather, it means to have the inner strength to put fear aside and embrace a challenge, to “courageously venture forward by putting fear behind and embracing the fruit that lies ahead for taking a necessary risk.” Only the Pharisee takes the risk, while the others simply stay behind. And it’s only the Pharisee who is told “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.”
We can ask ourselves if we really are open to hearing God’s will for our lives. Oftentimes, we can try to convince ourselves that we’re doing what God wants when, in reality, we’re doing what we want. How often do we tell God, “Thy will be done?” How often do we ask Him to show us His will for us in daily life, and ask Him for the courage to follow through with it?
Today, let us ask, through the intercession of Mary, Refuge of Sinners, for the grace to take the risk of following God, to embrace His will for our lives, and so be able to love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves.