My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
One thing that I think we do well to learn as we hear the teaching of our Lord and of the Apostles every week is that – as the Scriptures attest – that we are to be doers of the word, and not hearers only.
Now, of course, we should be hearers, we should be attentive and receptive to the words and the lessons which are presented to us. But if we are attentive, we will see that the lessons that we receive are not merely information to store away, things to hear by ear, but the lessons are challenges to us. Challenges in grace. Opportunities to grow, to reflect, and – above all – to take responsibility.
That can be a heavy word: Responsibility. It comprehends a lot, depending on the circumstances. But breaking it down into its parts: response – ability, we see that it is simply the ability to make response. The ability to answer.
As a good example of this, in the Holy Gospel today we hear of an exchange between our Lord and a doctor of the law along with group of Pharisees who were with him. Our Lord challenges them, as He challenges us. By the grace of God, we may be able to be made responsible in this challenge.
We hear that doctor of the law comes unto our Lord, and he asks Him – “tempting Him” as the Gospel says, saying: Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law?
And the Lord straightaway gives the answer: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.
And the Lord further says: And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.
And in this we see, in very truth, the most foundational lesson for us; our Lord distills for us the very purpose and essence of the entirety of the law and the prophets: the love of God with one’s whole heart, whole soul, and whole mind; and the love of one’s neighbour as oneself. Here, then is the lesson.
But then our Lord turns and He asks a question! He says to the doctor and the gathered Pharisees: What think you of Christ? Whose Son is He? They say to Him: David’s. He saith to them: How then doth David in spirit call Him Lord, saying: The Lord said to my Lord: Sit on My right hand, until I make Thy enemies Thy footstool? If David then call Him Lord, how is He his son?
Having received first from the Lord a most excellent and fundamental lesson, the very essence of the entirety of the law and the prophets, these Pharisees now find themselves being placed into the situation of being responsible for what they have been given. The Lord equips them with truth, and now inquires of them regarding that truth.
“What think you of Christ? Whose Son is He?” He asks. It is from the law and the prophets that they know Christ to be the Son of David. Then it is from King David himself in the psalms that we hear the Son of David being attested to as the Lord.
Our Lord by these questions leads the Pharisees to a situation of responsibility. Our Lord challenges them to respond. And we can see that it is in responding that they could have come to the certain knowledge that He Who was standing before them was indeed the Christ, that He Who was standing before them was indeed the Son of David, and that He Who was standing before them was indeed the Lord Himself.
But, as the Gospel tells us: No man was able to answer Him a word.
These experts of the law and the prophets were placed in a situation of response-ability, but they found that within themselves, within all their wisdom, within all their study, within all their speculation… they were not able to answer.
But this was not their failing, this is not where they failed in their response-ability. Their failure was in their further behaviour, as the Gospel tell us: No man was able to answer Him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask Him any more questions.
When they found that they could not answer the Lord’s question regarding the Christ, they could still have responded. This is true. Even if they did not know the answer to the Lord’s question, they could have responded themselves by asking the Lord to explain. He had just perfectly shown the message of the entirety of the Law and the Prophets distilled into two great commandments. He had shown that He could reveal knowledge of such truths. If, then, He places a question before you that you can not answer, then why not be humbled before Him, and in that humility, ask Him to reveal the truth to you. For that is a responsible thing to do.
We face a time of great turmoil and great confusion. But the voice of the Lord sounds as clearly today as it ever did. Our Lord today reminds us of the greatest commandments: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets.
Receiving this truth, this revelation today, we are now ourselves elevated, lifted up before the Lord Himself, and placed in a situation of being responsible, capable of making response to our Lord, as He asks, just as He did two thousand years ago, so He asks again today each one of us: What think you of Christ?
The response is yours.